Release of Reuters journalists in Myanmar welcomed
The release of two Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar after reporting on the massacre of Rohingya Muslims has been welcomed by the UN human rights office, OHCHR , which has nonetheless said that Press freedom there remains “dire”.
Reuters journalists Wa Lone, who is 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, were convicted and sentenced to seven years in jail last September, after being convicted of breaking the Official Secrets Act.
They had been investigating the killing of 10 ethnic Rohingya Muslim men by security forces and Buddhist civilians in western Rakhine State, during an army operation that began in August 2017.
OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said that while it was good news that Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo had been released after more than 500 days in custody, “they should never have been convicted and arrested in the first place”.
"Our office, you may recall had put out a report in September last year, right after their sentences were first confirmed, and that report detailed the very dire situation for freedom of expression in Myanmar, and this has not changed.”
The report the two men authored featured testimony from the alleged perpetrators, witnesses and families of the victims.
It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in May, as well as the 2019 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.
Syria escalation being followed with “great concern” by UN Secretary-General
UN chief António Guterres has said that he’s following “with great concern” intensifying clashes in north-western Syria that have claimed yet more lives and displaced thousands in recent days.
The Secretary-General’s comments come amid reports of aerial attacks on population centres and civilian buildings within a demilitarized zone in southern rural Idlib and northern rural Hama that has been guaranteed since last September by Russia and Turkey.
Mr. Guterres said he was “alarmed” at news that hundreds of civilians had been killed and injured in fighting between Syrian Government forces supported by their allies and armed opposition forces including ISIL-affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.
He’s called for parties to uphold international humanitarian law and protect civilians as the holy month of Ramadan begins.
The UN human rights office (OHCHR) said that at least seven health facilities have been struck since 28 April, along with several schools.
Here’s OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani again: “At least 27 civilians have been killed and 31 injured since 29 April, although there are other estimates out there which are much higher. These are just the numbers that we have been able to fully verify, and this includes many women and children…Yesterday, on 6 May, Government forces started to advance on the ground and captured villages from non-State armed groups in northern Hama. Additionally, non-State groups carried out counter-attacks in Latakia, so the violence is very much escalating.”
UN health agency targets 50 per cent reduction in snakebite deaths and disabilities
And finally, news of a global bid to stop snakebites killing or disabling hundreds of thousands of people a year.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), which is leading the initiative, snakebites affect up to 2.7 million people annually - and 40 per cent of victims are children.
The UN agency wants to cut that number by half by targeting rural communities and ensuring that victims have access to safe, effective treatment.
Often, several anti-venom treatments are needed to cure snakebite victims, WHO’s Dr Bernadette Abela-Ridder told UN News:
“One dose of anti-venom currently can cost up to $200 a vial, and an adult person needs at least four, if not much, much more. So it’s a very expensive product and we need to try to influence the market and get safe products and good products out there that are appropriate.”
While agricultural workers and children are the most affected by snakebites, WHO says that children often suffer more severe effects than adults, owing to their smaller body mass.
One of the problems in treating people who’ve been bitten is a loss of confidence in available serums by health professionals and patients.
This has eroded demand for the medicines but WHO intends to address this and other challenges when it launches its strategy for prevention and control later this month in Geneva.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.