When it comes to beaming their views around the world, France has France 24, Germany has Deutsche Welle and – like it or not – Russia has Russia Today. So why did it take Italy so long to decide to set up a proper 24-hour English-language media outlet? State broadcaster Rai has finally announced it is set to launch such a channel next year. As well as news programmes, it will air sports commentary and documentaries. The service’s contract also includes a mandatory requirement to devote at least €2m of its budget to independent, small production houses (and for that budget to be increased each year). It’s a service we’re happy to say “benvenuto” to.
When Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe hosts US president Donald Trump next month, North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests will be at the top of the agenda. But Abe is expected to bring up another thorny issue: how to counter China’s growing global influence. Abe will propose forming a four-nation alliance – with the US, India and Australia – that would promote free trade and closer defence ties across Asia, the Middle East and Africa. How Trump’s administration will respond isn’t clear. But Tokyo, which isn’t known for its big-picture diplomacy, appears antsy about defining a greater role for itself on the world stage as China moves forward with its “One Belt One Road” project of building transport and trade links with more than 60 countries.
With Russia’s vast size comes an expanse of cultures, peoples and languages. There are 39 official tongues taught across the country and among them is Tatar: a unique amalgam of Cyrillic and Arabic native to the Republic of Tatarstan some 800km east of Moscow. Spoken by more than five million people, it is mandatory in regional schools but this week its future has come under threat. Moscow has asked for it to be removed from the official syllabus and downgraded to an optional subject in the region. While it’s easy to denounce the Kremlin’s move as in keeping with its growing uber-nationalism, the government worries that Tatar is receiving disproportionate hours of teaching – to the detriment of Russian. On Thursday the republic’s president, Rustam Minnikhanov, decried the Kremlin’s excessive response, suggesting instead a compromise that keeps Russian and Tatar on equal footing, lest the latter begin to die out.
Travelling the globe for Singaporeans just got that much easier. After Paraguay removed its visa requirements for the country’s passport-holders, the Singaporean passport has become the most powerful in the world, according to the Passport Index. With 159 countries out of 195 offering visa-free travel to Singapore passport-holders, the city-state has become the first Asian country to hold the top ranking. Traditionally, European countries have taken the lead – Germany has been in first place for the past two years – but Singapore’s diplomacy is paying dividends. Incidentally, President Trump’s rise to power has sunk the US ranking: since taking office, countries such as Turkey and the Central African Republic have revoked visa-free travel for US citizens.
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