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Rights groups decry Poland’s ban on media at Belarus border – Al Jazeera English

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Sokolka, Poland – Human rights groups have condemned Poland’s government for continuing to ban journalists, lawyers, and aid workers from accessing the country’s border with Belarus, as thousands of migrants and refugees have gathered on the Belarusian side hoping to cross into Poland.

For two months now, no media professionals have been able to access the Polish side of the border. As media attention intensified this week on the escalating geopolitical dispute, journalists were still unable to approach the Polish border fences.

Polish media as well as Reporters Without Borders, which has called the restrictions “arbitrary and disproportionate,” are calling for the ban on media presence to be lifted in order for accurate and transparent information to be relayed from the area.

An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 migrants and refugees are camped out at the Belarusian side of the border with Poland after being denied entry to the EU nation. Human rights groups have raised concerns for their safety amid harsh winter conditions and a spate of deaths on both sides of the border.

The EU accuses Minsk of encouraging migrants and refugees to try to cross into the bloc in retaliation for sanctions penalising Belarus’s President Alexander Lukashenko’s government for cracking down on dissent after a disputed August 2020 election which handed the president a sixth term.

Checkpoints span the length of the Polish-Belarusian border which is currently under a state of emergency lasting until the beginning of December. Kilometres from the razor wire fences where thousands of Polish border guards are now stationed, anyone driving in the area is pulled over in the roadblocks formed by the military and police. Journalists have reported being detained and only those who can provide documentation proving that they live in the restricted area can enter.

Pavol Szalai, the head of the European Union and Balkans desk at Reporters without Borders (RSF), told Al Jazeera that it was essential that journalists were allowed to report from the border.

“Although it is legitimate for the Polish authorities to declare a state of emergency on the border due to security issues, the imposed press freedom restrictions are arbitrary and disproportionate,” he said.

“The overall ban for journalists to work in the border zone is contrary to Poland’s international press freedom commitments which state that press freedom may be restricted only with a legitimate goal and proportionally to the threat in question.”

Szalai added that at least two media crews have so far faced prosecution for violating the ban on entrance to the area.

“Considering the prosecution as arbitrary, we have denounced it and called for it to be dropped. As the state of emergency expires on December 2, RSF renews its call on the Polish authorities for all press freedom restrictions to be lifted. Only then will reporters be free to cover subjects of not only Polish, but also of European public interest, given that Poland’s border with Belarus is a Schengen border.”

Earlier this week Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that media at the border would only harm the situation saying that media would be “susceptible to the influence of Belarusian and Russian fake news”.

Polish media have repeatedly denounced the ban. In an open letter written in September and signed by 30 national media and journalistic organisations they said that the lack of access ran “contrary to the principle of freedom of speech, and manifests the unlawful obstruction of journalists’ work and suppression of press criticism”.

“The state of emergency, introduced by the government, on the entire length of the Polish-Belarusian border, rules out the activity of the media. The regulations allow free movement of people and entities providing various services and conducting economic activity there – with the exception of journalists and social organisations. This is a clear signal that our presence is inconvenient for the government. This must raise objections.”

“Our only goal is the realisation of the journalists’ right to work for the public, ensuring that the truth about the events, especially those so interesting to the public and crucial for democracy, reach the society.”

Journalists and rights groups have said that absence of reporting from the Polish side of the border has enabled disinformation to thrive.

“You don’t fight Belarusian disinformation with censorship,” said the General Secretary of the European Federation of Journalists Ricardo Gutiérrez.

“On the contrary, journalists should be allowed to document the situation as it is. We cannot accept that a government should encourage this kind of ban on journalistic coverage as soon as a sensitive situation arises. We believe that the state of emergency was introduced mainly to prevent the public from witnessing questionable activities along the country’s border with Belarus. Critics have accused the Polish authorities of violating international law by pushing asylum seekers back across the border.”

Polish journalist Wojciech Bojanowski said on Twitter that the restrictions on Polish and international media meant that allegations circulating on Russian and Belarusian media that Polish security forces were tear gassing children were impossible to verify or debunk.

Piotr Skrzypczak, from human rights organisation Homo Faber Association said that restricted access was harmful to all areas of society, including journalists as well as lawyers and aid organisations trying to help displaced people, who could face criminal charges just for entering the restricted area.

“We know that if we go into the zone, we could have very big criminal problems,” he said “transparency is very important in these situations”.

“What we need is independent and verified information about these issues of public interest on the border,” said Szalai “This can only be provided by the independent and professional media. On the contrary, the Polish government – on whose goodwill the national and European public currently depends – has shown it has difficulties providing trustworthy information in general and about the border issues in particular.”

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Media Advisory: Ministers Stoodley and Davis to Attend Run for Women in Support of Stella's Circle – News Releases – Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

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On Sunday, June 26 the Honourable Sarah Stoodley, Minister of Digital Government and Service NL and the Honourable Bernard Davis, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, will attend the LOVE YOU’ by Shoppers Drug Mart Run for Women, in support of women’s mental health programs at Stella’s Circle.

The event is set to begin at 8:45 a.m. at Quidi Vidi Lake, 115 The Boulevard, St. John’s.

The Run for Women is held in 18 cities throughout Canada and focuses on Women’s Mental Health. Funds raised go to this year’s charity partner, Stella’s Circle, to specifically support programming at Naomi House and the Just Us Women’s Centre. The event also promotes physical movement as a means to creating better positive mental health outcomes.

-30-

Media contacts
Krista Dalton
Digital Government and Service NL
709-729-4748, 685-6492
kristadalton@gov.nl.ca

Lynn Robinson
Environment and Climate Change
709-729-5449, 691-9466
lynnrobinson@gov.nl.ca

2022 06 24
1:40 pm

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Newly appointed Toronto councillor resigns after controversial social media posts resurfaced – CTV News Toronto

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A newly installed Toronto councillor has resigned after her old social media posts, which appear to show homophobic content, were unearthed hours following her appointment.

Rosemarie Bryan was appointed by city council as the new councillor for Ward 1 – Etobicoke North during a special meeting on Friday, filling the vacancy left by Michael Ford, who ran in June’s provincial election and won.

After she was appointed, however, Bryan’s alleged past social media activities, which appears to show her sharing anti-LGBTQ content, were brought to light.

Friday was the start of the Pride Toronto’s Festival Weekend, which features the return of the Pride Parade to downtown streets on Sunday following a two-year hiatus.

Several councillors posted to social media that had they known about Bryan’s posts, they would not have voted for her to fill the seat.

“A majority of councillors would have never this (way) had this information been brought forward. We relied too heavily on the recommendation being made by former councillor,” Coun. Mike Layton tweeted.

“We need to reopen this debate.”

Of the 23 councillors who cast their ballots, 21 voted for Bryan, including Mayor John Tory.

Coun. Josh Matlow, one of the two councillors who did not vote for Bryan, called for her resignation, tweeting that he does not believe “anyone who supports hate and bigotry should be a Toronto city councillor, or hold any public office for that matter. This is disgraceful.”

On Friday night, Bryan released a statement announcing that she is resigning, saying it’s the best way to continue serving those who love and support her in Etobicoke North.

Bryan said she is devastated that her past online posts are being “thrown against my decades of commitment to the community.”

“I recognize councillors were not aware of those posts before today’s discussion and now that they are, I recognize many would not have cast their vote for me. I don’t want to hurt all those who supported me and I remain committed to helping my community in any and every way I can,” she said.

In a statement, Tory said while Bryan made a “strong case” to council for her appointment, her past social media posts are “not acceptable.”

“I totally disagree with any homophobic or transphobic views. I absolutely support our 2SLGBTQ+ residents. City Councillors are expected to set an example when it comes to consistency with our shared values,” Tory said.

“I would not have voted for this appointment had I been aware of these posts and I know that is the sentiment of the vast majority of council who also voted today.”

He said it was appropriate for Bryan to resign.

“The upset this has caused everyone involved is extremely unfortunate. This is especially unfortunate on the very weekend when we are celebrating the progress we have made together,” Tory said, adding that he has asked staff to review the overall appointment process.

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S.Korean leader's informal media events are a break with tradition – SaltWire Halifax powered by The Chronicle Herald

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By Soo-hyang Choi

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean leader Yoon Suk-yeol has departed from years of tradition by holding informal daily media events to field questions on topics ranging from inflation and ties with neighbouring North Korea to the first lady and even boyband BTS.

Such wide-ranging access to the president was previously unheard of. It stems from Yoon’s decision to move his office out of the official Blue House, whose previous occupants largely steered clear of such interactions over more than seven decades.

“It’s apparently helping Yoon dispel worries about his lack of political experience and giving him a sense of where public opinion is at,” said Eom Kyeong-young, a political commentator based in the capital, Seoul.

Yoon, a former prosecutor-general, entered politics just a year ago, before winning the presidency in March by a margin of just 0.7%, the narrowest in South Korea’s history.

Upon his inauguration in May, Yoon moved the presidential office to the compound of South Korea’s defence ministry, describing the official residence as the symbol of an “imperial presidency”, and vowing not to “hide behind” his aides.

His liberal predecessor, Moon Jae-in, had rarely held news conferences, and almost always filtered his communication with the media, and the public, through layers of secretaries.

Analysts see Yoon’s daily freewheeling sessions as part of a broader communications strategy that lets him drive policy initiatives and present himself as a confident, approachable leader.

The campaign has also allayed public suspicions about the newcomer to politics, they say.

Polls show the new strategy helping to win support and much-needed political capital for Yoon in his effort to hasten recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, in a parliament dominated by the opposition Democratic Party.

Although Yoon’s approval rating dipped to 47.6% in a recent survey, slightly lower than the disapproval figure of 47.9%, another June poll showed communication was the reason most frequently cited by those who favoured him.

“The sweeping victory of Yoon’s conservative party in June local elections shows the public is not so much against the new administration,” said Eom.

Incumbents from Yoon’s People Power Party (PPP) defeated challengers for the posts of mayor in the two biggest cities of Seoul and the port city of Busan in that contest, while its candidates won five of seven parliamentary seats.

Eom attributed Yoon’s low approval rating from the beginning of his term to inflation risks that threaten to undermine an economic recovery and his lack of a support base as a new politician.

But some critics say Yoon’s sessions raise the chances that he could make mistakes.

“He could make one mistake a day,” Yun Kun-young of the opposition party wrote on Facebook last week, saying the new practice could be “the biggest risk factor” for the government.

The presidential office could not immediately be reached for comment.

Yoon has already faced criticism for controversial remarks made during the morning briefings, such as one in defence of his nominee for education minister, who has a record of driving under the influence of alcohol years ago.

But the daily meetings and public reaction would ultimately help the government to shape policy better, said Shin Yul, a professor of political science at Myongji University in Seoul.

“It might be burdensome for his aides for now, but will be an advantage in the long term,” Shin said. “A slip of the tongue cannot be a bigger problem than a policy failure.”

(Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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