Canada FM Postpones UN Speech as Trade Talks Intensify

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland postponed her U.N. speech Saturday as free-trade talks between the U.S. and Canada intensified.

Freeland had been scheduled to deliver Canada’s address to the General Assembly in New York, but Canada exchanged the slot with another country. Freeland may or may not give the speech on Monday.

A senior Canadian government official said they were making progress in the talks but that it wasn’t certain that they would reach a deal soon. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Canada would sign only a good deal.

Canada, the United States’ No. 2 trading partner, was left out when the U.S. and Mexico reached an agreement last month to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement. The U.S. and Canada are under pressure to reach a deal by the end of the day Sunday, when the U.S. must make public the full text of the agreement with Mexico.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said he wants to go ahead with a revamped NAFTA, with or without Canada. It is unclear, however, whether Trump has authority from Congress to pursue a revamped NAFTA with only Mexico, and some lawmakers say they won’t go along with a deal that leaves out Canada. 

Dairy tariffs

Among other things, the negotiators are battling over Canada’s high dairy tariffs. Canada also wants to keep a NAFTA dispute-resolution process that the U.S. wants to jettison.

U.S.-Canada talks bogged down earlier this month, and most trade analysts expected the Sept. 30 deadline to come and go without Canada’s reinstatement. They suspected that Canada, which had said it wasn’t bound by U.S. deadlines, was delaying the talks until after provincial elections Monday in Quebec, where support for Canadian dairy tariffs runs high.

But trade attorney Daniel Ujczo of the Dickinson Wright law firm, who follows the NAFTA talks closely, said the United States put pressure on Canada, contending there would “consequences” if it didn’t reach an agreement by the end of the day Sunday. Trump has repeatedly threatened to start taxing Canadian auto imports. Ujczo put the odds of a deal this weekend at 75 percent. 

Relations between the two neighbors have been strained since Trump assailed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Group of Seven meeting in June, calling him “weak” and “dishonest.” Canadian leaders have objected to Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on Canadian steel, citing national security.

Tension Flares in Kosovo Over Possible Land Swap With Serbia

Tension flared in a familiar section of the Balkans as thousands of people marched Saturday in Kosovo’s capital against a possible territory swap with former war foe Serbia, while the Serbian government put its troops on alert after special police were deployed to Kosovo’s Serb-dominated north.

Serbia reacted after Kosovo’s special police moved into an area around the Kosovo side of the strategic Gazivode Lake, said Marko Djuric, director of Serbia’s Office for Kosovo and Metohija.

Kosovar President Hashim Thaci visited the area near Serbia’s border Saturday, a move that temporarily redirected attention away from the large opposition protest in Pristina. A security unit was dispatched to the area for the president’s stop, Kosovo police said.

Serbia’s Djuric said special troops must not be deployed unannounced to northern Kosovo, where the country’s ethnic Serbian minority population is concentrated. Serbian media said Belgrade had complained to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

President Aleksandar Vucic, an ally of Russia in the Balkans, warned at a news conference later on Saturday that Serbia would not allow any violence against the Serb minority in Kosovo.

No ‘great global conflicts’

Asked if he would seek Russia’s help as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad did, Vucic responded he would seek advice but not military help from President Vladimir Putin during an upcoming visit to Moscow.

“I would not like to see great global conflicts take part on our territory,” said Vucic.

Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence, but their governments have been in European Union-mediated negotiations for seven years. The two sides have been told they must normalize relations as a precondition to EU membership.

Thaci has said a “border correction” could be part of the discussions. Some Serbian officials have suggested an exchange of territories could help end the dispute.

One idea that has been floated by politicians in both countries involves exchanging predominantly ethnic Albanian Presevo Valley in southern Serbia with Kosovo’s Serb-populated north.

However, the idea has faced opposition from Germany and other EU nations, which have said they fear a Kosovo-Serbia trade could trigger demands for territory revisions in other parts of the volatile Balkans.

Thousands of supporters of Kosovo’s opposition Self-Determination Party marched peacefully through the capital, Pristina, on Saturday to protest any potential change of borders. The protesters held national Albanian flags.

‘Grandiose protest’

Opposition leader Albin Kurti said he considered Thaci a collaborator with Serbia and called for fresh elections.

“Such a grandiose protest is our response to the deals from Thaci and Vucic,” Kurti said.

Thaci has rejected both border revisions based on ethnicity and a possible land trade. But he has not clarified how Serbia could be persuaded to give away the Presevo Valley without something in exchange.

Three weeks ago, Serbian leader Vucic visited the lake in northern Kosovo that Thaci traveled to Saturday.

NATO-led peacekeepers in Kosovo, a force known as KFOR, called for calm and restraint. They said they would continue monitoring the situation along the Serbia-Kosovo border with ground patrols and helicopters.

Thaci’s office issued a statement acknowledging his visit to a border crossing and the lake.

“During the weekends the head of state usually goes to Kosovo’s beauties,” the statement said.

The governments in both Pristina and Belgrade have said they hope the EU-mediated talks will result in a legally binding agreement.

“Talks [with Serbia] that continue will be on peace and stability,” Thaci said Saturday.

Catalan Separatists, Police Clash as Tension Rises

Catalan separatists clashed with police Saturday in downtown Barcelona, with two arrests being made, as tensions increased before the anniversary of the Spanish region’s illegal referendum on secession that ended in violent raids by security forces.

Separatists tossed and sprayed colored powder at the local police, filling the air in a thick rainbow cloud and covering anti-riot shields, police vans and the pavement on a downtown boulevard in a panoply of bright colors. Some protesters also threw eggs and other projectiles and engaged with the police line, which used baton strikes to keep them back.

The clashes erupted after local Catalan police intervened to form a barrier when a separatist threw purple paint on a man who was part of another march of people in support of Spanish police demanding a pay raise. Officers used batons to push back the oncoming separatists and keep apart the opposing groups.

The Catalan police told The Associated Press that both people were arrested on charges of aggressions against police officers.

There were more confrontations between separatists and local police as the separatists tried to invade Barcelona’s main city square where 3,000 people supporting Spanish police had ended their march.

Furious shouts

Separatists shouted “Get out of here, fascists!” and cried for `”Independence!” at the Spanish police supporters, who responded by shouting “We will be victorious!” and “Our cause is just!”

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau issued a plea for peace when the first scuffles broke out.

“I make a call for calm,” Colau told Catalunya Radio. “This city has always defended that everyone can exercise their rights to free speech.”

The pro-police march had originally planned to end in another square that’s home to the regional and municipal government seats, but 6,000 separatists, according to local police, gathered in the square to force regional authorities to alter the march’s route.

The police march was organized by the police association JUSAPOL, which wants Spain’s two nationwide police forces, the national police and Civil Guard, to be paid as much as Catalonia’s regional police.

JUSAPOL holds marches in cities across Spain, but Saturday’s march in Barcelona came two days before Catalonia’s separatists plan to remember last year’s referendum on secession that the regional government held despite its prohibition by the nation’s top court.

That Oct. 1 referendum was marred when national police and Civil Guard officers clashed with voters, injuring hundreds.

JUSAPOL spokesman Antonio Vazquez told Catalan television TV3 that while the march’s goal was to demand better salaries, they also wanted to support the national police and Civil Guard officers who had been ordered to dismantle last year’s referendum.

“The national police and Civil Guard agents who acted last year were doing their duty and now they are under pressure and we have to support them,” Vazquez said.

Rallying call

Last year’s police operation that failed to stop the referendum has become a rallying call for Catalonia’s separatists, who argue that it was evidence of Spain’s mistreatment of the wealthy region that enjoys an ample degree of self-rule.

Pro-secession lawmaker Vidal Aragones of the extreme left CUP party called the police march an “insult to the Catalan people.”

“It is not acceptable,” Aragones said. “They have come here to remember the violence that they employed.”

Two weeks ago, police had to intervene to keep apart two separate rallies by Catalan separatists and Spanish unionists in Barcelona, the region’s capital.

Catalonia’s separatist-led government is asking Spain’s central authorities to authorize a binding vote on secession.

Polls and recent elections show that the region’s 7.5 million residents are roughly equally divided by the secession question.

A Pakistani American Startup Fighting Media Censorship

According to the latest report by the Committee to Protect Journalists in Pakistan, fatal violence against journalists has declined, but fear and self-censorship have grown. In this era, five Pakistani American students at Harvard University have created a startup that challenges censorship using the latest block-chain technology. Their mission is “making journalism truly free.” Saqib Ul Islam visited Harvard’s innovation lab to bring us the story of a new company called “Inkrypt.”

Journalists Jailed in Record Numbers Worldwide

Journalists are being jailed in unprecedented numbers across the globe, with 262 detained for their work at the end of 2017, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

“The jailing of journalists is a brutal form of censorship that is having a profound impact on the flow of information around the world,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon told a press freedom event Friday at the United Nations.

At the end of 2017, the worst offenders were Turkey, with 73 journalists jailed; China with 41; and Egypt with 20.

CPJ says that slightly more than half of all imprisoned journalists were jailed for reporting on human rights violations.

 

WATCH: A Pakistani American Startup Fighting Media Censorship

Simon said the United Nations has not been a strong enough voice on the issue because it has a culture of rarely naming and shaming its member states.

The event, organized on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly annual meeting, highlighted the cases of five reporters CPJ says have been unjustly detained. They are nationals of Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, Egypt and Myanmar.

The two most high-profile cases are of Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in Myanmar. The two men were detained in December 2017 while they were investigating the mass killing of Rohingya Muslim men and boys by Buddhist villagers in the Rakhine state village of Inn Din.

Myanmar’s military launched a crackdown on the minority Rohingya in August 2017 after Rohingya militants attacked several police checkpoints and killed a dozen Myanmar police officers. In a matter of a few months, 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh. Survivors gave accounts of horrific abuses, including widespread rapes, torture, and the looting and burning of their homes. The United Nations has deemed the atrocities a “textbook case” of ethnic cleansing. 

British barrister Amal Clooney is representing the two Reuters reporters. She says the Myanmar authorities did not want their story about the massacre at Inn Din to come out.

“So police planted government documents on the journalists while other officers lay in wait outside to arrest them,” Clooney said of how the two men were set up. “The journalists were arrested and were then prosecuted and subjected to a show trial in which their conviction was guaranteed.”

Earlier this month, the two were sentenced to seven years in prison for violating a law on state secrets. Clooney said they are seeking a presidential pardon in Myanmar for them, as it is the only avenue currently available to win their freedom.

“The attack on them is a chilling warning to other journalists worldwide,” said Reuters President Stephen Adler. “Myanmar is not the only country where attempts are made to deter investigative news gathering, scare sources and whistle-blowers, dim the spotlight of reporting, and thereby allow officials to act in darkness with impunity.”

Other arrests

Azimjon Askarov, a Kyrgyz journalist, has been serving a life sentence since July 2010. CPJ’s Simon says he was covering deadly ethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan in the summer of 2010. During the trial, he and his lawyer were both assaulted.

“CPJ conducted its own investigation into the case in 2012 and found that charges against Askarov were in retaliation for his reporting on corrupt and abusive practices by regional police and prosecutors,” Simon said.

Bangladeshi photojournalist and commentator Shahidul Alam was arrested last month while covering student protests in Bangladesh. A Dhaka court ordered that he be held for seven days to determine if he violated an information law by spreading propaganda and false information.

“When Shahidul was brought into court, he screamed that had been tortured. He was unable to walk without assistance,” Simon told the panel. He remains in detention.

Since 2013, CPJ says, Egypt has been among the world’s worst jailers of journalists, often detaining reporters on politically motivated anti-state charges.

Alaa Abdelfattah, a well-known Egyptian blogger and activist who has written about politics and human rights, is one of them. He is serving a five-year sentence on charges that he organized a protest and assaulted a police officer.

“We believe the charges are trumped up and in retaliation for Alaa’s coverage of alleged human rights abuses by the police and security forces,” Simon said.

“We are witnessing a growing hatred of journalists worldwide, which unfortunately is not limited to authoritarian regimes,” said Margaux Ewen, North America director of Reporters Without Borders. “We are seeing democratically elected regimes also attack the press more and more frequently, which is why we need to continue to address wrongs as they occur.”

U.S. President Donald Trump refers to negative news coverage of him and his administration as “fake news,” and reporters at his rallies and during his campaign reported encountering hostility from his supporters.

Reporters in the United States are facing a more dangerous work environment. CPJ says at least three journalists have been arrested this year and 34 last year. In June, five people were killed in the newsroom of an Annapolis, Maryland, newspaper.

Journalists covering white nationalism and the far-right political movement have reported receiving threats, and at least 24 journalists have been assaulted, shoved or had their equipment damaged while working.

“A free press is not an adversary, but an essential component of democracy,” Ewen said.

Watchdog: Journalists Jailed in Record Numbers Worldwide

Journalists are being jailed in unprecedented numbers across the globe, with 262 detained for their work at the end of 2017, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

“The jailing of journalists is a brutal form of censorship that is having a profound impact on the flow of information around the world,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon told a press freedom event Friday at the United Nations.

At the end of 2017, the worst offenders were Turkey, with 73 journalists jailed; China with 41; and Egypt with 20.

CPJ says that slightly more than half of all imprisoned journalists were jailed for reporting on human rights violations.

 

WATCH: A Pakistani American Startup Fighting Media Censorship

Simon said the United Nations has not been a strong enough voice on the issue because it has a culture of rarely naming and shaming its member states.

The event, organized on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly annual meeting, highlighted the cases of five reporters CPJ says have been unjustly detained. They are nationals of Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, Egypt and Myanmar.

The two most high-profile cases are of Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in Myanmar. The two men were detained in December 2017 while they were investigating the mass killing of Rohingya Muslim men and boys by Buddhist villagers in the Rakhine state village of Inn Din.

Myanmar’s military launched a crackdown on the minority Rohingya in August 2017 after Rohingya militants attacked several police checkpoints and killed a dozen Myanmar police officers. In a matter of a few months, 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh. Survivors gave accounts of horrific abuses, including widespread rapes, torture, and the looting and burning of their homes. The United Nations has deemed the atrocities a “textbook case” of ethnic cleansing. 

British barrister Amal Clooney is representing the two Reuters reporters. She says the Myanmar authorities did not want their story about the massacre at Inn Din to come out.

“So police planted government documents on the journalists while other officers lay in wait outside to arrest them,” Clooney said of how the two men were set up. “The journalists were arrested and were then prosecuted and subjected to a show trial in which their conviction was guaranteed.”

Earlier this month, the two were sentenced to seven years in prison for violating a law on state secrets. Clooney said they are seeking a presidential pardon in Myanmar for them, as it is the only avenue currently available to win their freedom.

“The attack on them is a chilling warning to other journalists worldwide,” said Reuters President Stephen Adler. “Myanmar is not the only country where attempts are made to deter investigative news gathering, scare sources and whistle-blowers, dim the spotlight of reporting, and thereby allow officials to act in darkness with impunity.”

Other arrests

Azimjon Askarov, a Kyrgyz journalist, has been serving a life sentence since July 2010. CPJ’s Simon says he was covering deadly ethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan in the summer of 2010. During the trial, he and his lawyer were both assaulted.

“CPJ conducted its own investigation into the case in 2012 and found that charges against Askarov were in retaliation for his reporting on corrupt and abusive practices by regional police and prosecutors,” Simon said.

Bangladeshi photojournalist and commentator Shahidul Alam was arrested last month while covering student protests in Bangladesh. A Dhaka court ordered that he be held for seven days to determine if he violated an information law by spreading propaganda and false information.

“When Shahidul was brought into court, he screamed that had been tortured. He was unable to walk without assistance,” Simon told the panel. He remains in detention.

Since 2013, CPJ says, Egypt has been among the world’s worst jailers of journalists, often detaining reporters on politically motivated anti-state charges.

Alaa Abdelfattah, a well-known Egyptian blogger and activist who has written about politics and human rights, is one of them. He is serving a five-year sentence on charges that he organized a protest and assaulted a police officer.

“We believe the charges are trumped up and in retaliation for Alaa’s coverage of alleged human rights abuses by the police and security forces,” Simon said.

“We are witnessing a growing hatred of journalists worldwide, which unfortunately is not limited to authoritarian regimes,” said Margaux Ewen, North America director of Reporters Without Borders. “We are seeing democratically elected regimes also attack the press more and more frequently, which is why we need to continue to address wrongs as they occur.”

U.S. President Donald Trump refers to negative news coverage of him and his administration as “fake news,” and reporters at his rallies and during his campaign reported encountering hostility from his supporters.

Reporters in the United States are facing a more dangerous work environment. CPJ says at least three journalists have been arrested this year and 34 last year. In June, five people were killed in the newsroom of an Annapolis, Maryland, newspaper.

Journalists covering white nationalism and the far-right political movement have reported receiving threats, and at least 24 journalists have been assaulted, shoved or had their equipment damaged while working.

“A free press is not an adversary, but an essential component of democracy,” Ewen said.

Finnish Unions Call for Oct. 3 Strike over Layoff Law

Four large Finnish unions called on Friday for tens of thousands of their members to go on strike on Oct. 3 to protest against what they called attacks on workers’ rights.

The unions said the strike was over government plans to make it easier for small companies to dismiss workers.

“The obstinacy of the right-wing government … has not left us with any choice,” the Industrial Union’s chair Riku Aalto said in a statement.

Service sector union PAM, professionals’ union Pro and the Finnish Electrical Workers’ Union also called the 24-hour strike.

Finnish food industry workers had already announced plans to strike on Oct 3. against the government plans.

The government led by the Center Party has said the changes will end up creating more jobs as they will make small companies more willing to hire.

Colombia President Trying to ‘Shatter’ Peace Process, ELN Rebels Say

Colombian President Ivan Duque’s pledge not to restart stalled peace talks with ELN rebels until the group has freed all hostages and his rejection of Venezuela as a guarantor country are part of a plan to “shatter” the process, the guerrillas said on Friday.

Right-wing Duque has said the 2,000-strong National Liberation Army (ELN) must free all 19 hostages it had been holding and stop criminal activities as conditions for resuming dialogue. The group has so far released nine of the hostages, all members of the security forces or military contractors. The remaining 10 are civilians.

Duque, who took power in August pledging to take a harder line against guerrillas, said on Thursday that he would no longer accept Venezuela as a guarantor at the talks because of its alleged support for rebel activities.

“President Duque keeps adding unilateral conditions in order not to give continuity to the peace process,” the ELN said in a statement. “In his statements he demands that to continue we must cease our insurgent activity unilaterally and ahead of time.”

His demands are not part of what was agreed by the two sides before the start of the Havana-based talks, the rebels added.

“We are facing rulers who plan to shatter the peace process,” the statement said, accusing the United States of using Colombia’s government to “launch a bellicose, absurd and fratricidal conflict against Venezuela.”

Colombia’s government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ELN, considered a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union, has been at war with the Colombian government since 1964. The larger FARC, a former rebel group, are now a political party after signing a peace deal with the government last year.

France Calls for New Global Coalition, With or Without US

France’s leaders are proposing a new international coalition to revive global cooperation that they say is being threatened by countries like the United States and Russia.

Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced the plan Friday while speaking at Harvard University, calling for an alliance of “goodwill powers” that believe in cooperation and share democratic values.

Any nation could join, but the minister says he hopes it would include countries like India, Australia and Japan, along with others in Europe. He says it would go on with or without the U.S.

His speech came days after U.S. President Donald Trump told the United Nations General Assembly that he rejects “the ideology of globalism.”

French President Emmanuel Macron countered with calls for greater cooperation and said “nationalism always leads to defeat.”