Yesterday there was a strange press conference with US President Elect Trump labeling some news organisations as 'fake news'. It is interesting to see political leaders pick and choose which news organisations they would like to tolerate and which they would not. There is a great similarity in mood here between Trump, India's Narendra Modi and Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Add in place a host of other leaders who have made it their mission to silence journalism either through direct state intimidation or through allowance of their goon squads to pulverise free speech. Either way, the chilling effect is clear.
But then there are stories that are thrown out of the mainstream press regardless of their import and without any governmental interference. These stories are often at the edges of the popular imagination - where corporate power displays its full authority against ordinary people. One such story is from Bangladesh. The poster above is for a protest regarding the construction of a coal-fired power plant in the Sundarbans region of Bangladesh. In this week's Alternet, I write about this Rampal power plant and the struggle against it on behalf of the Sundarbans. The report ends, 'Our carbon civilization threatens the Bangladeshi coastline. If Bangladesh builds a coal-fired plant right on this front-line of climate change, how could it make the case to other states who need to urgently quit their carbon-addiction?' One hopes that the authorities in Bangladesh see the sense that has been put on the table by the activists and by a UNESCO fact-finding report of great importance. You can read the rest of my report here.
Coming soon from LeftWord Books is a volume called Will the Flower Slip Through the Asphalt? Writers Respond to Capitalist Climate Change. It is centered around the 2016 Edward Said lecture by Naomi Klein, with essays from John Bellamy Foster, Masturah Alatas, Shalini Singh, Ghassan Hage, Rafia Zakaria, Susan Abulhawa and with an afterword from Amitav Ghosh. The story of Rampal fits in perfectly with the madness described in this book. I shall let you know when the book is available.
Disputes over how to understand the Syrian conflict provide another example of the problem of the news media and events in the world. In this Tuesday's The Hindu I have an explainer on the current situation in Syria, particularly with regard to the peace discussions that will take place in Astana starting on 23 January. It is important to keep in mind that ceasefire agreements and peace treaties are not stable events with an on-off switch, but they are part of a process to build confidence between belligerents towards a more clear understanding of the way forward. The current ceasefires are contested by the fact that the conflict has not stopped. But the ceasefires themselves continue a process - now ongoing for two years - to try and find a way across the divides in Syria.
My report, which you can read here, stresses how the seams of patriotism - necessary to revive a real peace treaty - are being stitched more out of desperation than out of belief. This is as clear in Iraq as in Syria.
I previewed this report for The Real News Network for a short segment with Sharmini Peries which you can watch here - the last five minutes of the segment are about the question of the Western media and Syria, on how a certain ideological position prevents an honest assessment of the conflict and its outcome.
Finally, as you know, my dispatches and reports are mostly about rather depressing things. I rarely write about films, but wish I did more often. Om Puri, the great Hindi cinema actor, died this last week. I was forced by friends to write a short tribute to the actor. You can read it here. He was one of my favorite actors - with a remarkable range and great comic timing. If you get a chance, please see some of the films I refer to in the essay - particularly Ardh Satya (1983).
I hope you have a pleasant week.