Press Freedom Is Important

At a demonstration in Cairo, Egyptian policemen shot two journalists with rubber bullets. In China, journalist Wang Jing was sentenced to nearly five years in jail; her articles caused “unrest”. She wrote about demonstrations that were brutally crushed by the Chinese police. In Mexico, investigative journalists are targeted by drug cartels and in Bangladesh bloggers have been attacked and killed by extremists. Everywhere in the world press freedom is under increasing pressure. Police and Justice Departments, along with some governments, are not doing enough to address this.

Besides direct threats against freedom of speech there is also other pressure in the form of government control, censorship or propaganda. A new law in Poland for the media increases government control in order to keep critical journalists in line. In Turkey, journalists are accused of insults or lies by the President himself. In China, foreign companies have to get the government’s permission before they can publish anything online. The Russian government has a key role in various media that spread conspiracy theories or strongly coloured posts in Europe. Where one actively uses the media for political gain, the other restrains it for his political career.

Without a free press, people do not have access to and lack appropriate information on human rights violations or revelations of whistle-blowers. Without a free press public debate is silenced, there is no control of government and democracy, as we in the “West” understand it, can’t exist. Freedom of the press is an essential component of European identity and values. We need to invest in it. It should be an essential part of foreign policy. Unfortunately, more and more often we see the opposite happening.

Europe as a whole, never mind the European Union, hardly responds when candidate member states violate the freedom of the press on a daily basis. In the Balkans and Turkey incidents are increasing. Journalists are threatened, persecuted or imprisoned and different types of media have been taken over by the state without strong criticism. The result? A Dutch journalist was arrested in Turkey because of a critical tweet and a German comedian is being forced to account for insulting Erdogan. How did we get into a situation where Turkey exports authoritarian tendencies to the EU instead of the EU strengthening freedom of expression in Turkey?

This is a question to think about on International Press Freedom Day. The European Union can and must do more to guarantee freedom of the press and to face down censorship and propaganda. Many of the countries where press freedom is respected are located in Europe, globally only 13 % of the population lives in a country where press freedom is respected.

The European Union mustn’t adopt laws allowing the privatised censorship of online content by companies such as Twitter or YouTube. Sometimes people ask to ban or block publications and websites with propaganda, but a European approach must have the principle of free speech as a starting point along with pluralistic independent media.

The EU must continue to train activists and journalists in the use of anonymising tools and encryption techniques to work online securely. New technologies that protect human rights can be developed especially in Europe. That should be promoted more actively.

Further, the export of European espionage technologies, which allow authoritarian governments to keep an eye on journalists, bloggers or dissidents, must be brought to an end. By putting a stop to the export of digital weapons Europe can be a more credible advocate of press freedom.

And lastly, European politicians and diplomats should stand up for press freedom always and everywhere. In conversations with countries where press freedom is not respected, this is perhaps more difficult, but that is also where it is needed most urgently. Europe must show that this is one of our core values, which must not be squandered for economic or strategic interests. This means we strengthen trade ties with countries only in exchange for an improvement in human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Global press freedom has declined in 2015 to its lowest level in twelve years. Europe should be playing a leading role to put an end to the free fall. Democracy cannot function without free press.

A Quarter of European Countries Have Now Quit Coal

Europe‘s coal industry continues its downward spiral as a quarter of European Union countries have now closed their doors to the dirty energy source. Belgium has become the latest country to shut down its last remaining coal-fired power station, Langerlo. Announced on 30 March, Belgium follows Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta and the Baltic countries in quitting the… Continue reading “A Quarter of European Countries Have Now Quit Coal”

$2.5 Trillion Worth of Global Financial Assets at Risk From Climate Change Impacts by End of Century, Study Warns

An average $2.5 trillion (£1.76trn) of the world’s financial assets would be at risk from climate change impacts if global temperatures are left to increase by 2.5°C by 2100, warns a new study by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics. The study, published today in the… Continue reading “$2.5 Trillion Worth of Global Financial Assets at Risk From Climate Change Impacts by End of Century, Study Warns”

Just how sustainable is any wood product you buy?

Many people like me would probably prefer to buy a wood based product, furniture, if it had an Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label attached to it. This label is used to promote use of timber from socially and environmental beneficial forestry operations. However, that label may not be worth it.

The verification of forests is voluntary, it is done in primary forests not commercially grown ones, local communities and the environment can be ignored. How? The FSC uses 3rd party firms to certify forests. These 3rd party firms are paid by the forestry/logging companies directly. The certification is, therefore, not independent after all. It is not about protecting forests or the people who live in them. It is, and has been for some time, misleading.

If you want to know more I suggest you go to FSC-Watch ( and REDD-monitor (


More Money Invested in Renewable Energy in 2015 Than New Fossil Fuel Projects

A record US$367 billion was invested in renewable energy in 2015, according to a new report out today by the Clean Energy Canada initiative of the Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University. Renewables investment increased by seven percent since 2014, with China, the US, and Japan representing more than half of the total investment last… Continue reading “More Money Invested in Renewable Energy in 2015 Than New Fossil Fuel Projects”

Another question for your Holyrood Candidate

The future of our economy must be based on zero or low carbon which means our infrastructure needs changed and future decisions on infrastructure developments need to take this into account.

Currently, the Government does not fully account for all the emissions that will be created during the life of an asset. For example, when building a new road, they account for the emissions during construction bot not those of the vehicles that will use it during its lifespan. This must change. Zero or low carbon spending can be used to drive innovation and behaviour change.

The question to ask any candidate then is: How will your party ensure that future big infrastructure projects support Scotland’ s journey to a zero or low – carbon society ?

Question for a Holyrood Candidate

Most of the energy we use today is to heat our homes. This accounts for over 50% of Scotland’s climate emissions with only a wee small 3% coming from renewable energy sources. So the SNP’s 100% renewable energy plans won’t meet our home heating needs.

So, the Government we elect in May 2016 will need to take positive steps to address this issue. It will be required to develop a framework – independent of the UK Government especially with new finance powers if practical – that will encourage low or zero carbon heating.

This new Government could also encourage the development of district or community heating schemes that use renewable powered heat and energy to create jobs, warm homes and cut emissions.

The question to ask any candidate on the doorstep, or elsewhere is, How will your party increase the amount of renewable heat generated in Scotland ?