WHAT YOU MAY HAVE MISSED: A NON-COVID WEEKLY UPDATE

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY – GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS

Western journalists and media companies operating in China are increasingly exposed to the risk of becoming pawns in diplomatic fallouts. Events this week demonstrate the potential for more formal restrictions, as with changes imposed by Beijing to US journalists’ visa status, as well as other forms of harassment, with two Australian journalists evacuated after being questioned by police, after a Chineseborn Australian news anchor was detained in relation to an alleged national security case.

In Hong Kong and Colombia, street protests in the past week showcase underlying political and social discontent, which will sustain the risk of unrest in the longer term. In both locations, however, coronavirus concerns will mitigate a near-term return to the frequent violence and heated clashes of 2019.

In Eurasia, moves to attract investment in both Ukraine and Georgia have been highlighted this week; in the former, a potential new initiative is focused on easing tax burdens and facilitating the hiring of foreign talent for the IT sector. In Georgia, a visa-waiver programme appears to have been well-received so far, though the country’s stringent Covid-19 restrictions may act as a deterrent.

Progress towards the normalisation of diplomatic ties has been made over the past week, both with Kosovo and Serbia, and on the Arabian Peninsula with regard to Israel. Talks in Washington have made progress in easing travel and commercial restrictions between Kosovo and Serbia, though there is much ground still to cover. Meanwhile, following the recent formal normalisation of relations between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia opened their air space to flights between the two countries, signalling a possible re-evaluation of their own stances on the controversial issue in the coming months.

In Ethiopia, threats to government stability are increasing, with the central government’s attempt to disrupt the contentious Tigrayan regional election also creating a tense and more restrictive environment in the region. Conversely, in Romania, there is an opportunity to end the country’s persistent political instability and establish a firmer policy platform going into 2021, with the announcement of a December election that the ruling party is likely to win.

 

KEY RISK DEVELOPMENTS AND TRENDS

US companies operating in China are increasingly likely to be caught up in the tense bilateral relationship between the world’s two largest economies, with Beijing having imposed new visa restrictions aimed at US journalists. On 7 September, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China confirmed that at least five journalists from US media outlets the Wall Street Journal, CNN, and Bloomberg have been directly impacted by these new restrictions. As opposed to a journalist visa, reporters received letters granting them “temporary status”, which may be revoked at any time by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This decision serves as Beijing’s reprisal for Washington’s recent decision to impose tighter limits on US-based journalists working for Chinese media organisations.

➢ As US journalists’ visas are bound to their press credentials in China, the tightening of these rules underlines the trend of increasing restrictions on reporting in the country. As a result, the already small space in which foreign journalists and media companies can operate in China is shrinking further, as Beijing responds to recent criticism in the Western media over its handling of the Covid-19 outbreak, as well as the situations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong. With these heightened sensitives unlikely to dissipate, members of the foreign press, as well as academics
and NGO workers, will remain particularly exposed to both blanket and more targeted restrictions when operating in China…..

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As the Covid-19 crisis continues to unfold, Sibylline’s ‘What You May Have Missed’ report aims to consolidate our Regional Weekly Briefs into a more concise and accessible format for these unprecedented times. Every region is still covered within the report, while this new weekly update seeks to provide actionable, timely and relevant analysis of the key global developments that have gone under the radar amidst the focus on Covid-19.