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As speculation on Kim Jong Un's health rages, North Korean media silent on leader's whereabouts – National Post

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SEOUL — North Korean state media on Wednesday made no mention of new appearances by leader Kim Jong Un, a day after intense international speculation over his health was sparked by media reports he was gravely ill after a cardiovascular procedure.

South Korean and Chinese officials and sources familiar with U.S. intelligence have cast doubt on the South Korean and U.S. media reports, while the White House said it was closely monitoring the matter.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who held unprecedented summits with Kim in 2018 and 2019 in an attempt to persuade him to give up his nuclear weapons, said the reports had not been confirmed and he did not put much credence in them.

“I just hope he’s doing fine,” Trump told a White House news conference on Tuesday. “I’ve had a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un. And I’d like to see him do well. We’ll see how he does. We don’t know if the reports are true.”

Asked whether he would try to reach out to Kim to check on his condition, Trump said: “Well I may, but I just hope he’s doing fine.”

Speculation about Kim’s health first arose due to his absence from the anniversary of the birthday of North Korea’s founding father and Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, on April 15.

On Wednesday, the main headlines from KCNA included pieces on sports equipment, mulberry picking, and a meeting in Bangladesh to study North Korea’s “juche” or self-reliance ideology. Official Rodong Sinmun newspaper carried articles on a self-sufficient economy and anti-coronavirus measures.

There was no mention of Kim’s whereabouts.

Daily NK, a Seoul-based website, reported late on Monday that Kim, who is believed to be about 36, was hospitalized on April 12, hours before the cardiovascular procedure.

It said his health had deteriorated since August due to heavy smoking, obesity and overwork.

Citing one unnamed North Korean source it said Kim was now receiving treatment at a villa in the Mount Myohyang resort north of the capital Pyongyang.


People watch a television broadcast reporting on North Korean Kim Jong-un at the Seoul Railway Station on April 21, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea.

Chung Sun-Jun/Getty Images

On Tuesday, CNN reported an unnamed U.S. official saying that the United States was “monitoring intelligence” that Kim was in grave danger after surgery.

However, two South Korean government officials rejected the CNN report and South Korea’s presidential Blue House said there were no unusual signs from North Korea. China, North Korea’s only major ally, also dismissed the reports.

Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, told Fox News the White House was monitoring the reports “very closely.”

“There’s lots of conjecture going around,” a senior Trump administration official said on condition of anonymity late on Tuesday when asked if there was confirmation of the reports.

North Korea experts have cautioned that hard facts about Kim’s condition are elusive, but said his unprecedented absence from major celebrations for his grandfather’s birthday last week signals that something may have gone awry.

Kim is a third-generation hereditary leader who rules North Korea with an iron fist, coming to power after his father Kim Jong Il died in 2011 from a heart attack.


Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.

Jorge Silva/Pool/Reuters/File

Reporting from inside North Korea is notoriously difficult, especially on matters concerning its leadership, given tight controls on information. There have been past false reports regarding its leaders, but the fact Kim has no clear successor means any instability could present a major international risk.

Trump said he had asked Kim about succession in the past but declined to elaborate.

“The basic assumption would be maybe it would be someone in the family,” said O’Brien. “But, again, it’s too early to talk about that because we just don’t know what condition Chairman Kim is in and we’ll have to see how it plays out.”

With no details known about Kim’s young children, analysts said Kim’s sister and loyalists could form a regency until a successor is old enough to take over.

In recent years, Kim has launched a diplomatic offensive to promote himself as a world leader, holding three meetings with Trump, four with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and five with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Kim has sought to have international sanctions against his country eased, but has refused to dismantle his nuclear weapons program, a steadfast demand by the United States.

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Belleville Police responds to officer's social media posts – inquinte.ca

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Facebook slaps labels on 'state-controlled' media outlets – ZDNet

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Facebook has begun labelling media outlets it deems to be “state-controlled”, which it assesses based on various factors such as government influence and ownership. It also will slap similar labels on ads from these publishers later this year in a move, it says, aims to provide greater transparency. 

The social media platform on Thursday kicked off efforts to label media organisations that were “wholly or partially” under the editorial control of their government. It had announced plans to do so last October as part of a string of initiatives to curb election interference on its site. 

Applying labels to state-controlled media outlets would offer “greater transparency” to readers who should know if the news came from publications that might be under the influenced of a government, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, said in a post. He added that similar labels would be placed on ads from these publishers later this year. 

Xinhua News on Facebook

Applied globally, these labels would be placed on the publication’s Pages, Ad Library Page, and Page Transparency section. They also would be extended to posts in News Feeds in the US over the next week, Gleicher said. 

In addition, later this year, ads from such media outlets would be blocked in the US “to provide an extra layer or protection” against foreign influence in the public debate around the upcoming US elections in November, he said. 

A check on China’s Xinhua News and Russia’s Sputnik News profiles on Facebook revealed each had a label, displayed as “China state-controlled media” and “Russian state-controlled media”, under their respective Page Transparency section. 

Such labels, however, would not be added to US news outlets because Facebook believed these organisations, including those run by the US government, had editorial independence, Gleicher said in a Reuters report.

In establishing its policy criteria, he said in his post that Facebook consulted more than 65 experts worldwide who specialised in media, governance, and human rights development to understand the “different ways and degrees” to which governments exerted editorial control over media companies. 

He noted that the defining qualities of state-controlled media extended beyond government funding and ownership and included an assessment of editorial control. To determine if publishers were wholly or partially under the government’s editorial control, he said Facebook looked at various factors including the media organisation’s mission statement and mandate, ownership structure, editorial guidelines around sources of content, information about newsroom staff, funding source, and accountability mechanisms. 

Country-specific factors, such as press freedom, also were assessed, he said. 

Media organisations that disagreed with such labels could submit an appeal with Facebook and offer documentation to argue their case. To demonstrate their independence, publishers should provide indication of established procedures to ensure editorial independence or an assessment by an independent, credible organisation that determined such procedures had been adhered to and their country’s statute — safeguarding editorial independence — had been observed.

But while it is moving to stick labels on such media outlets, Facebook is less willing to do so for other types of content. CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently came under fire for refusing to take action against posts from US President Donald Trump, including one that appeared to incite violence against protesters in the country. The post, which first appeared on Twitter and was reposted on Facebook, was later restricted on Twitter for breaching its policies on glorifying violence. Zuckerberg, however, specifically declined to enforce similar action, prompting several of his employees to stage a “virtual walkout” in protest.

Facebook last September said advertisers running campaigns on social issues, elections, and politics on its platform in Singapore would have to confirm their identity and location, and reveal who was responsible for the ads. It said the move was part of efforts to stem the spread of “misinformation” and help block foreign interference in local elections. It also came amid calls from Singapore’s Minister for Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam for regulations to deal with “hostile information campaigns”. 

Facebook earlier this week complied with a Singapore government directive to block local access the National Times Singapore page, but described the order as “severe and risk being misused to stifle voices and perspectives” online. The social media platform in February also had adhered to the government’s order to block local access the States Times Review page, whilst highlighting it was “deeply concerned” that the move stifled freedom of expression in Singapore. 

Such government directives were enabled by the country’s Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), which was passed in May last year, following a brief public debate, and came into effect on last October along with details on how appeals against directives could be made. The Bill had passed despite strong criticism that it gave the government far-reaching powers over online communication and would be used to stifle free speech as well as quell political opponents.

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