February 2021 global news roundup: Threats to democracy in Myanmar, Hong Kong, Haiti; Media and news content disputes; Trump convicted and acquitted a second time

Myanmar Plaza in Yangon, Myanmar

This roundup summarises the most important news stories around the world in the last month (February 2021).

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In Myanmar, tens of thousands of protestors have been turning out to demonstrate against the arrest of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her political party. The protests turned deadly, after security forces shot and killed at least three people. On February 28, at least 18 protestors were killed after police and the military opened fire on peaceful demonstrations, marking the deadliest day of crackdown since the February 1 military coup.

In Hong Kong, authorities have been using the new national security law to restrict street demonstrations, activists from lobbying foreign governments, and other opposition activities. Democracy supporters have also been charged for violating with the security law. And in Haiti, thousands of protestors called for their president to step down, amidst a dispute over when his five-year term legally ends.

Media and news content disputes

In Australia, for about a week, Facebook blocked access to news content on its platform and also stopped those outside Australia from viewing Australian news publications. This followed the passage of a bill which would have forced the social media company to pay for news content shared by its users. Facebook restored access to the news pages, after the government offered amendments to the bill, moving Facebook back into negotiations.

A week after China’s primary international and state-owned news channel China Global Television Network (CGTN) had its broadcasting licence revoked in the United Kingdom for violating laws, because of the Chinese Communist Party’s control of CGTN, China banned BBC World News from airing in the country.

Trump convicted and acquitted a second time

Despite seven Republicans voting guilty and to convict, the Senate voted 57-43 – 10 short of the 67 votes needed for conviction – to acquit former president Donald Trump for inciting the insurrection at the Capitol in January. However, it was still the most bipartisan vote for conviction in history. In its aftermath, senate minority leader Mitch McConnell – who did not vote for conviction – criticised Mr. Trump for the Capitol attack and said there were other legal avenues to hold the former president accountable. In response, Mr. Trump called out Mr. McConnell, described as a “dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack”.

In the state of Texas, as a result of a winter storm and record-breaking extreme weather which froze pipelines and roads, millions were left without electricity, heat, and safe drinking water. The United States is also still in the middle of the pandemic, surpassing 500,000 COVID-19 deaths, the most of any country in the world.

Environmental challenges in Brazil and India

Brazilian Mining company Vale will pay US$7 (S$9.3) billion in compensation to the state of Minas Gerais, where the disastrous collapse of the company’s dam in 2019 killed hundreds and degraded the environment. Criminal charges against former executives and directors are still pending. And in India, the breaking of a Himalayan glacier caused a major river surge, sweeping away bridges, burying two power plants, and causing at least 200 people to be missing.

In other news

  • Israel: Weeks before the country’s fourth election in two years, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud, bribery, and breach of trust.
  • Italy: Former head of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi gathered enough support to form a national unity government and is set to be the country’s next prime minister.
  • Japan: Following his sexist comments that women talk too much, Tokyo Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori apologised and resigned, just five months before the opening ceremony.
  • Saudi Arabia: In a declassified report, Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman was found to have directed and approved the operation which ended in the murder of journalism Jamal Khashoggi.
  • United Kingdom: The supreme court ruled that Uber drivers are workers, a decision with implications for hundreds of thousands working in the gig economy.

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