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Musings From Abroad

Putin’s Russia takes war to social media, bans Facebook, Instagram, for being ‘extremist’

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Russia has taken its clampdown on the traditional media to the social media, after a court on Monday, placed a ban on Facebook and Instagram, claiming that the two platforms are “extremist.”

The ban on the new media platforms are part of sweeping efforts by Moscow to crack down on social media during the conflict in Ukraine.

Before the ban, the Russian authorities had accused the U.S. tech giant, Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, of tolerating what it termed as “Russophobia” since President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to invade Ukraine on February 24.

The Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court acceded to a request from prosecutors for the two social media platforms to be banned for “carrying out extremist activities” just as the two platforms have been inaccessible in Russia since early March and Instagram was blocked in the country.

In the judgement, the court ruled that Meta’s WhatsApp messenger service would not be prohibited because it is not used to post public statements.

During Monday’s court hearing, Russia’s FSB security service accused Meta of working against the interests of Moscow and its army during the conflict.

“The activities of the Meta organization are directed against Russia and its armed forces,” FSB representative Igor Kovalevsky told the court.

“We ask the court to ban Meta’s activities and oblige it to implement this ruling immediately,” he said.

Meta had announced on March 10 that the platforms would allow statements like “death to Russian invaders” but not credible threats against civilians, but in what appeared to be damage control, Meta’s global affairs president, Nick Clegg, later said the laxer rules would only apply to people posting from inside Ukraine.

In a statement before the ruling, a Meta representative has said that “following public debate” the company had now changed its policy and deemed that “Russophobia and calls for violence against Russian citizens are unacceptable.”

Since the invasion of Ukraine, Russia has come down hard on the media with its regulator, Roskomnadzor, earlier blocking access to euronews.com, the website of the French channel Euronews, and its Russian version, ru.euronews.com, at the request of the prosecutor’s office.

Earlier this month Roskomnadzor also blocked access to the BBC’s main news website, with Moscow’s Foreign Ministry warning of more retaliatory measures against the media.

Before the ban, Facebook and Instagram were widely used in Russia and the latter was the most popular social media platform among young Russians.

Instagram was also a key platform for advertising, processing sales and communicating with clients for small businesses in the country.

Musings From Abroad

CLIMATE CHANGE: Germany to sign climate protection contracts with industries

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As the cry towards a green environment intensifies amidst the increasing effects of climate change, Germany is taking a lead in the climate renewal agenda as it is set to sign climate protection contracts with industrial companies next year.

The Economy Minister, Robert Habeck revealed on Sunday that the agreement will support a transition towards cleaner production and a switch to hydrogen.

Habeck was quoted as saying by Funke media group that  “the aim is to efficiently develop a green industry along the value chain that becomes marketable.”

Reports emerged during the week that Germany was planning to award companies in energy-intensive industries including chemicals and steel 15-year subsidy arrangements that he called climate protection contracts, in return for reducing carbon emissions in their production.

Recall that several world leaders last month, converged in Cairo, the capital of Egypt for the United Nations COP27 Climate Summit, over talks on the “need to deepen cuts in emissions and financially back developing countries already devastated by the effects of rising temperatures.”

According to UNFCCC, the most recent seven years, from 2015 to 2021 were the warmest on record. The 2018–2022 global mean temperature average is estimated to be 1.17 ± 0.13 °C above the 1850–1900 average.

Africa seems to be feeling the heat more as countries across the continent’s East and West have suffered devasting drought and floods beyond what used to be the usual climate pattern.

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Musings From Abroad

Swiss firm, ABB, gets $4.3 million fine over bribery case in South Africa

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Judicial authority in Switzerland has fined engineering and technology group ABB, the sum of 4 million Swiss francs ($4.3 million) in connection with a bribery case in South Africa.

According to the country’s Attorney General, the fine on ABB is for “not having taken all necessary and reasonable organisational provisions in order to prevent bribery payments to foreign officials in South Africa”.

The group was found guilty of improper payments and other compliance issues at the Kusile power station after a wide-scale investigation into state corruption concluded in June 2022.

Earlier in the week, ABB and South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) agreed that the company will pay reparations for its involvement in state corruption.

According to a statement by the NPA, the company agreed to pay 2.5 billion rands ($144.51 million) in punitive reparations to South Africa within 60 days from the first day of December.

The reparation is in addition to 1.6 billion rand ($92.48 million)the company paid back to South African state power utility Eskom in 2020.

The Central Europe country has been fingered in lots of corruption cases involving African countries.

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