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Armed Taliban Surround Afghan News Anchor as Citizens Instructed to ‘Cooperate’ and ‘Not be Afraid’

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The new reality in Afghanistan is beginning to rear its ugly head in a multitude of ways. One of those ways is so unbelievable that one Twitter user explained it, “were this in a movie, I’d think it was dramatized and ‘unrealistic.’ Like a scene from The Dictator.” Sadly, it is a scene from Afghanistan’s press, now unambiguously controlled by the Taliban.

Journalist for BBC Monitoring, Kian Sharifi tweeted a clip of a news broadcast out of Afghanistan with the caption, “with armed Taliban fighters standing behind him, the presenter of Afghan TV’s Peace Studio political debate programme says the Islamic Emirate (Taliban’s preferred name) wants the public to ‘cooperate with it and should not be afraid.”

 

Nothing convinces people to not be afraid more than guns pointing at the person being forced to say it. Sharifi first tweeted a forty-two-second clip of the newscast, and then a longer version roughly an hour later. He added, “The program is called Pardaz. In this longer video, the presenter interviews a Taliban fighter who presumably outranks the rest of the lot in the studio. The presenter switches from Dari to Pashto, which unfortunately I don’t speak.”

At one point the video pans out and shows a wide shot of the entire studio with the newscaster sitting at a bright yellow desk. The journalist is wearing a traditional Western suit, and is surrounded by eight members of the Taliban, all armed with weapons.

A large sign in the background includes the words “Peace Studio” in English. As international lawyer and human rights activist Hillel Neuer tweeted, “Freedom of the press today in Afghanistan means you are free to read out the Taliban script while over your shoulder stand crazed-looking Jihadis with guns.”

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International

China Warns Olympic Athletes Could Face Serious Consequences if they Speak Publicly on Human Rights

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Olympics

The 2022 Winter Olympic Games are prepared to begin February 4th in Beijing, but not without consequences. Chinese officials have issued a “warning” to all foreign athletes that they are “subject to certain punishment” if they speak “against the Olympic spirit.”

That “Olympic spirit” means politically speaking out about China. “Any behavior or speech that is against the Olympic spirit, especially against Chinese laws and regulations, are also subject to certain punishment,” said Yan Shu, deputy director-general of international relations for the Beijing Organizing Committee (BOC).

National Review notes the Chinese Party’s suppression of speech is well known and many are concerned with consequences and punishments for political speech because of strict local laws. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said the Olympic Charter Rule banning protesting at medal ceremonies would force athletes to follow “applicable public law.”

The Associated Press reports according to the IOC athletes can “enjoy freedom of speech” when speaking to journalists or posting to social media during the games. However, the committee expressed any measures that would protect athletes from Chinese persecution.

CBS Sports reports Global Athlete Group director general Rob Koehler suggested Olympians could suffer severe consequences if they criticize China, especially while in the country itself. “Silence is complicity and that’s why we have concerns,” said Koehler. “We know the human rights record and the allowance of freedom of expression in China, so there’s really not much protection” he added.

Last month White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed the U.S. government delegation planned to boycott the Olympic Games over the Chinese government’s human rights abuses, including the presumed detention of tennis star Peng Shuai.

“The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 winter Olympics and Paralympic Games given the PRC’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses. The athletes on team USA have our full support. We will be behind them 100 percent as we cheer them on from home. We will not be contributing to the fanfare of the games,” Psaki said.

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Psaki Warns Russia Could ‘At Any Point Launch An Attack In Ukraine’

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Jen Psaki

On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki warned that tensions between Russia and Ukraine have grown to the point where “we are now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack in Ukraine.”

Psaki made the comments in response to a reporter asking about Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveling to Europe to meet with top Russian officials.

“This morning, Secretary Blinken spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. They agreed to meet in Geneva as you noted. At that meeting, Secretary Blinken will urge Russia to take immediate steps to de-escalate,” Psaki said. “He will also fly to Kiev to consult with President Zelensky and Ukraine’s leaders and to Germany for consultations. As you also know, there is a congressional delegation that is also on their way there. And it’s a note, I would note that that just indicates that support for Ukraine has always been a bipartisan issue, and we welcome that.”

“But where things stand right now, President Putin has created this crisis by amassing 100,000 Russian troops along Ukraine’s borders.

This includes moving Russian forces into Belarus recently for joint exercises and conducting additional exercises on Ukraine’s eastern border,” she continued. “So, let’s be clear, our view is this is an extremely dangerous situation. We are now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack in Ukraine.”

Psaki said that Blinken will push for a diplomatic way forward to de-escalate the situation and that if Russia invades then they “are going to suffer severe economic consequences.”

Russia has been behaving more aggressively in recent months as it has moved military forces to Latin America and might relocate nuclear weapons near the United States coastline.

Russian President Vladimir Putin “wants to extend Russia’s sphere of influence to Eastern Europe and secure written commitments that NATO will never again enlarge,” The New York Times reported. “If he is frustrated in reaching that goal, some of his aides suggested on the sidelines of the negotiations last week, then he would pursue Russia’s security interests with results that would be felt acutely in Europe and the United States.”

“There were hints, never quite spelled out, that nuclear weapons could be shifted to places — perhaps not far from the United States coastline — that would reduce warning times after a launch to as little as five minutes, potentially igniting a confrontation with echoes of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis,” The Times added.

“The current crisis was touched off by the Kremlin’s release of a series of demands that, if the U.S. and its allies agreed, would effectively restore Russia’s sphere of influence close to Soviet-era lines, before NATO expanded into Eastern Europe. It has also demanded that all U.S. nuclear weapons be withdrawn from Europe, saying it felt threatened by their presence — though the types and locations of those weapons haven’t changed in years. And it wants a stop to all Western troop rotations through former Warsaw Pact states that have since joined NATO.”

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