Tuesday 20 May 2008

Europe's Soft Powerlessness

This article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal on 20 May 2008.


Any dictator concerned about Western condemnation of his actions could learn a lot from Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov. Tashkent's strongman, with some help from Berlin, has just outmaneuvered the European Union to get the sanctions against his regime lifted.

Three years ago, the EU agreed on an Uzbek arms embargo and visa bans against top regime officials involved in the brutal crackdown on demonstrators in the eastern city of Andijan. No one can be sure how many men, women and children were killed on May 13, 2005, when security forces opened fire on the crowd. The authorities never allowed an independent inquiry. But conservative estimates suggest some 750 people died that day.

In fact, an independent investigation was one of the key conditions the EU had set for lifting the sanctions imposed in response to the mass killings and the torture, forced confessions and show trials that followed. It was an all-too-rare case of the EU taking the international lead on a tough foreign policy issue. The U.S. never even got as far as sanctions.

Sadly, European nerves didn't hold up.

Thursday 15 May 2008

Even Less Foreign News

This originally appeared on my Reuters AlertNet blog on 15 May 2008.


Last week's announcement that Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty was ending its Newsline service is yet another damaging blow to the diversity of foreign news sources in Western Anglophone media. One more informative voice has been silenced.

Somehow the idea still persists that with the internet, everyone can get as much news as they want from any part of the world. In reality, as soon as you try to test this optimistic notion on anything other than the one or two big stories of the day, it falls apart. You quickly realise you're looking at the same news agency copy repackaged in outlet after outlet.