For a free, independent and democratic Afghanistan

first_img Organisation to go further Receive email alerts AfghanistanAsia – Pacific Situation getting more critical for Afghan women journalists, report says Afghan organizations and Reporters Without Borders call for a clear commitment from Bonn conference to support freedom of expression and information. News RSF asks International Criminal Court to investigate murders of journalists in Afghanistan Afghanistan : “No just and lasting peace in Afghanistan without guarantees for press freedom” Help by sharing this information March 11, 2021 Find out more May 3, 2021 Find out morecenter_img Follow the news on Afghanistan A decade after the removal of the Taliban government, journalists’ unions and organizations that support open media in Afghanistan, together with Reporters Without Borders, call on the Kabul government and international diplomats to give a clear commitment to freedom of speech and information, as delegates prepare for the second international conference on the country’s future in Bonn next month. Afghanistan has never had more news outlets, with 200 print media, 44 television stations, 141 radio stations and at least eight news agencies.On the other hand, in the past decade it has witnessed growing violence against news organizations and journalists.Unions and organizations that support open media, and Reporters Without Borders, recorded hundreds of cases of such violence between 2001 and 2011. The largest number – 85 – took place in 2009, most of them in the provinces of Kabul, Herat and Helmand.Some of provinces in the south and east of the country are no-go areas for journalists since they are controlled by the Taliban who restrict journalistic activities.We believe, and the experience of the past 10 years has proved, that without a free media and without a climate in which journalists can carry out their work in safety, we cannot protect peace, security and freedom.Never before in Afghanistan’s history have its people had so much free access to information provided by Afghans for Afghans. However, these gains are under daily threat.Today, the enemies of free speech among the senior ranks of the government in most parts of the country want to abolish this constitutional right that was won by the blood of the people. A lack of transparency in peace efforts, secret talks with super powers and the concealment of their outcome from the people raise the worrying prospect of a future where democracy and freedom, the cornerstones of permanent peace, are sacrificed for short-term gains based on deals reached behind closed doors.News organizations are under serious threat, not only from the Taliban who are about to regain power as a result of strategic mistakes by the international military forces and the corruption and incompetence of the government, but also from local and national government officials and some Islamist clerics with ties to the government.The silence of President Hamid Karzai on the actions of the authorities and organizations that violate freedom of speech and information is a cause of concern.This is particularly true since Karzai would rather heed the views and advice of fundamentalists and those who do not believe in freedom of speech and information than to listen to journalists’ unions and media organizations.This leads us to believe that the muzzling of the free press that we see in Afghanistan is part of a plan to prepare for the return to power of the Taliban.The organizations that want a free and diverse media and Reporters Without Borders believe that peace and coexistence will be achieved only with the full participation of society. In the past decade, bureaucratic decisions and efforts have been carried out in defiance of the people as a result of restrictions on media freedom.How can corruption, growing poverty, prostitution and bribery be effectively combated without media organizations to keep the people informed?Censorship and self-censorship imposed by the Taliban, warlords, drug traffickers and government institutions have led to the present state of affairs.In the past 10 years, the independent media have not succeeded in bringing about any change in the system. It would have been more effective and less costly to have given the media the chance to campaign against corruption, the power of the warlords and drug trafficking and for the rule of law, reform of the judicial system and good governance. It is still not too late.The use of violence and illegal restrictions, as well as the constant threat of being branded as heretics, have been the main weapons used against journalists in recent times. As organizations that support journalists and the media in Afghanistan, we urge the authorities to put an end to the practice of harassing and discriminating against journalists on the basis of religious belief or racial or tribal affiliation.In the past decade, Afghan journalists have paid a high price for their activities. Sixteen have been killed and so far no-one has been brought to justice in any of these cases.The killers of Zakia Zaki, the owner of the radio station Radio Peace, BBC reporter Abdul Samad Rohani, who also worked for the Afghan news agency Pajhwok, and Jawed Ahmad, a freelance journalist who worked for the Canadian network CTV, have not been indentified and punished.The failure of the Afghan police and judicial authorities to arrest and punish those responsible for these murders casts doubt on the Kabul government’s ability to respect the rule of law.Sultan Muhammad Munadi and Ahmad Omid Khpalwak were killed by international forces. Although the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force admitted responsibility for Khpalwak’s death, the British military and the Afghan interior ministry have not disclosed the results of their criminal investigation into the killing of Munadi. He was shot dead during an attempt to rescue him and a British journalist from Taliban forces who were holding them hostage. Safeguarding the lives of journalists is the responsibility of both sides in any conflict.Violence against journalists, particularly women, has been encouraged by the failure to prosecute those responsible. In recent years, women journalists have become increasingly the target of threats from various organizations, particularly the Taliban.In the towns of Kunduz and Ghazni, the Taliban have threatened women journalists and driven female-owned media organizations out of business. In Kabul, security forces have on many occasions beaten women journalists carrying out their professional activities. Many have been forced to quit their jobs because of social pressure and fears for their safety.Violence against journalists is carried out in many cases by religious groups that have strong support among Afghan authorities. The Council of Religious Scholars, for example, has blamed journalists and media for the violence rather than the Taliban, terrorists, warlords and drug traffickers.Some provincial officials threaten media organizations daily. Instead of protecting journalists, security forces detain them without authority and accuse them of spying.Some warlords and countries such as Pakistan and Iran, whose control of some media organizations allows them to interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs, are increasingly relaying Taliban propaganda. Free media organizations, faced with the Taliban and the actions of corrupt government officials, are surrounded and forced into silence.The constitution and media law guarantee freedom of the press but the legislation is not implemented for political reasons. The law should be completed and implemented without delay. Government-owned media organizations should be safe from government interference and their independence observed. Government authorities should respect the right to freedom of information. Drafting a law facilitating access to information should be a priority for the government.In the past decade, Afghanistan has failed to grasp historic opportunities. Some analysts have predicted Afghanistan’s defeat. Fighting is taking place not only on the front line and in zones of conflict. The Afghan people wage a daily battle for peace and against war and they have the right to be informed.Conference organisers and participants, as well as the international community, should explicitly undertake to protect the freedom, democracy and rights of the people of Afghanistan.Freedom of speech, the emancipation of women and respect for human rights are the main challenges in Afghanistan. We must bear in mind that peace cannot be restored without freedom and democracy. Nai Supporting Open Media in AfghanistanAssociation of Free Journalists in AfghanistanAfghanistan National Journalists UnionSouthern Asia Women’s Association in AfghanistanReporters Without Borders November 25, 2011 – Updated on January 20, 2016 For a free, independent and democratic Afghanistan News RSF_en AfghanistanAsia – Pacific June 2, 2021 Find out more News Newslast_img read more

Vermont unemployment assistance for those impacted by Tropical Storm Irene

first_imgGovernor Peter Shumlin announced today that Federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) benefits are available to help those Vermonters left without work as a result of tropical storm Irene. President Obama and the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) have declared the following counties as official disaster areas eligible for individual assistance: Addison, Bennington, Caledonia, Chittenden, Orange, Rutland, Washington, Windham, and Windsor counties. Under this declaration, individuals living, working, or scheduled to work in those counties may be eligible for disaster unemployment benefits. ‘Tropical storm Irene has brought unprecedented damage and devastation to our state and to many Vermonters. I am very grateful to the Obama Administration and FEMA for their assistance during this difficult time.’ said Governor Shumlin. ‘Since the storm I have visited the communities impacted, and I am pleased that Vermonters may qualify for this assistance. We are dedicated to helping businesses reopen their doors and to supporting workers while they are unemployed as a result of this storm.’ ‘The flooding from Irene has resulted in temporary and permanent job loss in Vermont,’ said Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan. ‘We encourage Vermonters who have experienced job loss relating to tropical storm Irene to explore their eligibility for this assistance.’ The disaster assistance period begins August 27, 2011 and ends March 3, 2012.  The filing deadline for individuals deemed eligible for assistance is October 7, 2011. The first payable week will be the week ending September 3, 2011. An individual must be continuously unemployed as a direct result of the disaster in order to continue to receive Disaster Unemployment Assistance. If eligible, he or she can collect benefits for the weeks during which they meet the necessary criteria. Individuals who experience temporary job loss as a result of the disaster and who do not qualify for State Unemployment Insurance Benefits, such as self-employed individuals, may be eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance. An individual may qualify to receive Disaster Unemployment Assistance if: You were injured in the disaster and are unable to work, whether you are an employee or self-employed.Your workplace was damaged, destroyed, or you cannot work because of the disaster.Your transportation to work is not available.You cannot get to your job because you must travel through the impacted area where means of transportation are not available.You were about to begin working, but could not because of the disaster.You derived most of you income from areas affected by the disaster, and your business is down as a direct result of the disaster.last_img read more

ESMA advises against explicit ESG analysis mandate for credit rating agencies

first_imgSteven Maijoor, chair of ESMA, said: “Climate change is a reality. Financial market regulation needs to reflect this by integrating sustainability considerations. Source: ESMA“Climate change is a reality. Financial market regulation needs to reflect this by integrating sustainability considerations”Steven Maijoor, ESMA“To support the European Commission in this area we have advised on the level of sustainability considerations in the credit rating market, indicating that as demand for sustainability assessments increases, so does the need for vigilance on the levels of investor protection.”Last year, in the context of its sustainable finance action plan, the Commission charged ESMA with assessing current practice within the credit rating market concerning sustainability considerations.The watchdog appears to have effectively rejected this task, however, saying in its report to the Commission that credit ratings were not sustainability assessments and that it was therefore “not possible to assess the practice of sustainability considerations in a market that is not measuring sustainability characteristics”.In addition, the consideration of ESG factors as part of a credit rating “does not infer that the credit rating can be construed as providing an opinion on the sustainability or otherwise of an issuer or entity”.ESMA had instead focused on what was possible to assess, it said, namely the extent to which “factors that are classified as either environmental, social or governance factors are considered within CRAs’ credit assessments”.It found that CRAs were considering ESG factors in their ratings but that the prevalence and frequency of this depended on the agencies’ methodology.In addition to releasing its technical advice to the Commission, ESMA published its final guidelines on disclosure requirements for CRAs, which it said should “improve the transparency of CRAs’ consideration of ESG factors in their credit rating press releases and reports”.“This will allow the users of ratings to better assess where ESG factors are affecting credit rating actions,” said ESMA.The Principles for Responsible Investment has been working on an initiative to enhance the transparent and systematic integration of ESG factors in credit risk analysis.Carmen Nuzzo, the organisation’s head of fixed income, said ESMA was right to recommend not to amend CRA regulations to mandate the consideration of sustainability because CRAs had to include ESG factors in their credit rating opinions only when they were material to what the agencies measured, namely credit risk.“Having said this, it is important that CRAs systematically include these factors and signpost clearly when these are relevant and contribute to their assessments,” she added. “ESMA’s conclusion to assess whether there are sufficient regulatory safeguards in place for other sustainability-dedicated products is also important, as at the moment these products are not regulated and their methodology is not very transparent.” Credit rating agencies should not be explicitly required to consider environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) factors when assessing issuers’ creditworthiness, according to the EU financial markets watchdog.Amending the EU regulation governing credit rating agencies (CRAs) in this way would be “inadvisable” because of the specific role credit ratings continued to play within the financial system, said the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), noting that key pieces of sectoral legislation still contained mechanistic references to credit ratings.However, the EU supervisory authority said it could be useful to amend the regulation governing CRAs to provide a more consistent level of transparency around how they considered ESG factors in their credit assessments, and ensure the CRA regulatory framework kept pace with ESG developments in other areas.ESMA also suggested that the European Commission could assess whether there were sufficient regulatory safeguards in place for products and entrants into the market that were likely to emerge from the EU executive’s ESG push.last_img read more

Bumgarner hits Braun, Brewers win emotionally-charged game

first_img“That’s probably the worst road trip most … Click HERE if you’re having trouble viewing the gallery on your mobile device.MILWAUKEE–Don’t give in.It’s the mentality Giants ace Madison Bumgarner took into a sixth inning battle with Brewers cleanup hitter Ryan Braun, and the approach Milwaukee took into a three-game series with San Francisco.Bumgarner refused to give in to Braun. And the Brewers refused to give into the Giants, finishing off a three-game sweep with a 6-3 win Sunday.last_img read more

Independent Power Producers chosen

first_img“The success of renewable energy hinges on the financial sector,” she said, adding that bidders that were having trouble before the financial close to speak up. “I would want to appeal to those bidders that are already experiencing challenges to come to the fore. It is an appeal for the benefit of the number of jobs that will not be realised if there’s no financial support,” said Peters. In December, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) announced that it will finance 12 of the 28 preferred bidders to contribute to the country’s energy mix. The financing will be to the tune of R5.2-billion. Meanwhile, Peters said the department has started talking to financial institutions. “Job creation per province, we’ve seen a small reduction from bid window 1 but the bidders have indicated that on the total 7 059 jobs created in the construction period and 328 jobs created in the operation of the life of the plant,” said Magubane. “In this window, the department received 79 bids of which 51 met the qualification criteria as per the Request for Proposals. Given the megawatts limitation and competition, only 19 bidders were selected as preferred bidders for Window 2,” Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said in Pretoria on Monday. Growing the economy In the first window some of the challenges faced by bidders were that they had trouble reaching the financial close, of which June is the financial close for window1 project proposals. The minister said there had been informal conversation regarding companies experiencing financial strain. “With them not coming to the fore this would mean that we’re not going to deliver on the megawatts that we want,” she said. According to the IRP2010 – which is a 20-year projection on electricity supply and demand – about 42% of electricity generated in South Africa is required to come from renewable resources. The department has set aside 100MW of the 3 725MW for smaller projects of less than 5MW. Of the selected bidders, nine were selected for the solar photovoltaic technology, seven for wind, two for small hydro and one for concentrated solar thermal (CSP). 23 May 2012 Additionally there have been significant increases in the local content from 28.5% in window 1 to 47.5% in bid window 2 in solar photovoltaic technology. The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP2010) places specific emphasis on broadening electricity supply technologies to include gas, imports, nuclear, biomass, renewables (wind, solar and hydro), in response to both the country’s future electricity needs as well as reduce its CO2 emissions. For small hydro 13.3MW has been taken up from a maximum allocated for round 2 at 75MW while for CSP the allocated maximum 50MW has been taken up. In the 2nd window a total 1 043.9MW has been taken up by bidders. Ompie Aphane, Deputy Director General for Electricity, Nuclear and Clean Energy at the department said the department was not sure of the amount of projects that were in financial strain. Last year, the Department of Energy announced 28 preferred bidders, out of a total of 53 applications for the IPP bid process in the first window. Japser Power Company, Solar Capital De Aar 3 and Sishen Solar Facility were among the bidders selected for solar photovoltaic technology; while West Coast 1 and Grassridge form part of the 7 selected for wind and Stortemelk Hydro (Pty) Ltd and Neusberg Hydro Electric Project A were selected for small hydro. For CSP Bokpoort CSP project was selected. The department has noted that under window 2, the level of commitment to economic development has improved compared to window 1. “More communities will benefit through employment or as shareholding in these projects,” said the minister, adding that most bidders in window 2 will establish community trusts aimed at developing surrounding communities.center_img What the department had noted, said Director General Nelisiwe Magubane, was that there were “significant” changes in several areas like pricing whereby in solar photovoltaic in window 1 on average was at about 2.75 per kWh. “We’ve seen a significant reduction in price of about R1.65 per kWh for window 2,” she said. Projects allocated The department has yet to decide on when bidding will commence for projects to take part in window 3. A full list of bidders is available on the Independent Power Producers programme website. Peters said government saw the programme as an opportunity to grow the economy given the numbers of unemployed people while the procurement of alternative energy is also aimed at alleviating energy constraints. Appeal to financial sector Integrated Resource Plan For Solar photovoltaic 417MW have been taken up by bidders with the maximum MW allocated for round 2 at 450; for wind 562.5MW has been taken up with the maximum allocation at 650MW. The names of 19 bidders – who have been selected as the preferred bidders for Window 2 of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers (IPP) programme that will contribute to South Africa’s energy mix – were announced on Monday. The bidding for window 2 closed on 5 March with the total 79 bids received. These bids amount to 3 255MW while the cap was at 1 275MW. Source: BuaNews Peters appealed to the country’s financial sector to provide financing to bidders. South Africa wants to procure 3 725MW of renewable energy through this process. The programme also seeks to make provision for local content in the provision of alternative energy sources while the bids were evaluated by technical, financial, legal and international reviewers. The minister called on prospective bidders for the remaining three windows that they need not necessary own the land on which projects will operate on. Bidders could co-exist. “We don’t want to lose arable land,” said Peters adding that bidders could share the same piece of land with farmers.last_img read more

SA’s green building sector gains ground

first_img9 July 2013 Activity in South Africa’s green building sector has surged in recent months as the government, businesses and developers in the country increasingly embrace sustainable building practices. According to the Green Building Council of South Africa, June 2013 alone saw six green building certifications, bringing the total number of Green Star-rated buildings in the country to 36. “The GBCSA is very encouraged to see this spike in the number of buildings achieving Green Star SA ratings,” the organisation’s chief executive officer, Brian Wilkinson, said in a statement last week. “We are confident that the green building movement in South Africa will continue this upward trajectory and that we will increasingly see green building practices becoming the norm.” These Green Star-rated buildings include the Environmental Affairs Department’s head office in Pretoria, which scored the highest rating possible at six stars and was a first for a government-owned building in the country. “Hyundai’s new head office, situated in Bedfordview, is another exciting development to receive a Green Star Rating as it signifies buy-in and commitment to sustainable practices from this large motor corporation – the first green building rating in South Africa achieved within this sector,” the GBCSA said. Nedbank’s Menlyn Maine Falcon Building in the Menlyn Maine Precinct in Pretoria scored a five-star rating, and all buildings in the precinct will be required to achieve a minimum four-star rating. It is also the first project in Africa to be registered with the Clinton Climate Initiative, a programme of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. The initiative is a strict rating mechanism to evaluate the carbon neutrality of a project. “The industry is embracing this absolutely necessary shift towards sustainable practices and it is exciting to be part of this change,” Wilkinson said. SAinfo reporterlast_img read more

SA to build 200 000 houses in two years

first_img27 February 2014 The South African government will build 216 000 houses and connect 905 000 households to electricity over the next two years, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan told Parliament on Wednesday. This is in addition to other housing schemes the state has embarked on in partnership with the private sector and public-private development institutions. Delivering his fifth Budget speech in Cape Town, Minister Gordhan said the housing budget for the 2013/14 financial year was R143-billion. Between 1994 and 2013, the government built over 2.7-million houses across South Africa. The National Development Plan (NDP) recommends that responsibility for housing shift to the country’s municipalities in order to improve coordination. All metro municipalities have been directed to implement housing programmes. The Human Settlements spending focus over the next two years will be on transferring grants to provinces and municipalities to fund the delivery of low-income housing, the purchase of land to upgrade informal settlements, and the upgrade of some informal settlements, Gordhan said. The urban settlements development grant is expected to deliver more than 215 000 housing units and upgrade 92 000 services sites in informal settlements. The integrated city development grant, which is being introduced in this year’s Budget, will ensure that large, low-income communities on the urban edge are better connected to centres of economic and social activity through investments in public transport. The Treasury says municipalities will receive the grants on condition that they produce built environment plans and that these plans support better coordination of investments and are aligned to national development plans. Source: read more

a month agoOxford boss Robinson delighted with Cup rout of West Ham

first_imgOxford boss Robinson delighted with Cup rout of West Hamby Paul Vegasa month agoSend to a friendShare the loveOxford United boss Karl Robinson was delighted with their 4-0 Carabao Cup rout of West Ham.During his tenure as MK Dons boss, the 39-year-old knocked out Blackpool and Norwich when they were in the Premier League before recording a famous 4-0 win over Manchester United in the third round five years ago.Robinson also triumphed over QPR – when they were in the top flight – in the FA Cup, but played down his cup exploits.”I just like winning football matches, no matter who you play against. I think one thing my teams always do is show tremendous respect for the opposition, but we never change our style,” Oxford’s manager said.”We almost in a stupid way match them at their own game and sometimes it doesn’t work.”I’ve been battered 6-0 in this competition by Southampton. I’ve also been beaten 5-1 by Chelsea in the FA Cup, so there have been a few hidings, but these are the ones you remember for the rest of your life.”Before the game I said I think I have some Premier League youngsters in my team and if you look at our age, we were younger than West Ham.”We don’t only have an older group of players who want to run around, but we have a young team with tremendous growth thanks to the academy and the players we have brought in so I can’t ask for any more from my players.” About the authorPaul VegasShare the loveHave your saylast_img read more

AltaCorp Capital founder oil and gas financier George Gosbee dies suddenly

first_imgCALGARY – Investment firm AltaCorp Capital Inc. says its founder and CEO, Calgary oil and gas financier George Gosbee, died suddenly on Sunday.Gosbee was a former governor of the National Hockey League and, in 2013, led a group to purchase the Arizona Coyotes and restructure the team. Current team owner Andrew Barroway tweeted he was “deeply saddened” by the news.Gosbee, 48, founded AltaCorp Capital in 2010 and struck a deal to partner it with ATB Financial, an Alberta government-owned lender.In 2000, he helped found Tristone Capital Global Inc., an energy investment firm which he and his partners sold in 2009 to Australia’s Macquarie Group for about $130 million.Gosbee served as vice-chairman of Alberta Investment Management Co., which manages $90 billion in provincial government pension funds, for eight years.AltaCorp says president Paul Sarachman will assume the role of CEO.last_img read more