Wednesday 22 February 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 22/2/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Reuters

Opinion / James Chambers

Speaking out

We might only be in February but it already looks as though 2023 will be a tough year for press freedom in Asia. Earlier this week a court in Bangladesh upheld a government order to shut down Dainik Dinkal, the country’s main opposition newspaper. The decision in Dhaka follows a similar crackdown in Cambodia and a raid on the BBC’s offices (pictured) in India by tax officials, not long after the British broadcaster aired an unflattering documentary about the country’s prime minister, Narendra Modi. All of these nations are holding elections in the next year.

That should be all the more reason to allow for alternative points of view. “The space for free speech should permit the most fierce criticism and accusations, especially when the target is the authorities,” said journalist Chung Pui-kuen during his sedition trial in Hong Kong a few weeks ago. The city’s government doesn’t seem to agree: Hong Kong continues to slide down the World Press Freedom Index, though at a dismal 148 out of 180 it still manages to hover above India at 150. It’s a useful reminder that democracy alone is no guarantee of free speech. Here in Bangkok, we have been receiving daily updates about the deteriorating health of two young activists who went on hunger strike to protest against the country’s strict lèse-majesté laws.

All of this is alarming for journalists across the continent. But if there’s a glimmer of hope, it’s thanks to those who refuse to pipe down. The last word should go to Maria Ressa, a thorn in the side of the Philippines’ former president Rodrigo Duterte and an icon of free speech in the region. After winning a trumped-up tax-evasion trial in January, Ressa said: “Today, facts win, truth wins, justice wins.” Let’s hope that it wasn’t a one off.

James Chambers is Monocle’s Asia editor, based in Bangkok. To read more of his reports from the region, subscribe to Monocle.

Image: Getty Images

Earthquakes / Turkey

From the ground up

More than two weeks after devastating earthquakes struck the region, Turkey’s focus is shifting from rescue efforts to managing the needs of survivors. The Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), the country’s humanitarian response arm, has erected about 300,000 tents in 270 locations, repurposing sports grounds and other open spaces into camps for the displaced. Following the 6.4-magnitude earthquake in Hatay on Monday night, a new wave of survivors is arriving in dire need of shelter. With the safety analysis of many buildings still under way, it remains unclear how many people have been made homeless. Turkish leaders have promised to rebuild destroyed homes within a year but one AFAD officer, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Monocle Minute that a disaster on this scale is unmatched in recent memory and predicted that reconstruction would take far longer to complete.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Suriname

Troubled times

Despite calls for calm by Suriname’s president, Chan Santokhi (pictured), there is tension on the streets of Paramaribo. The unrest began last Friday when about 2,000 people clashed with security forces and stormed the Congress building. The turmoil in the South American nation has been a long time coming. Rising fuel and electricity prices, as well as plans to eliminate subsidies to meet conditions imposed by the International Monetary Fund, are pushing many into financial hardship.

Parallels have been drawn with other protests in the region; Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has condemned the events, saying that the riots echoed the storming of Congress in Brasília in January. Suriname’s protest leader Stephano Biervliet, however, insists that his movement doesn’t have antidemocratic intentions. “It was a peaceful protest, taken over by malicious parties,” he has said to local media. He’ll have to ensure that public anger isn’t exploited by those with ulterior motives.

Image: Dario Garofalo

Fashion / Italy

Homeward bound

In the past few decades many European fashion houses have sought to lower overheads by offshoring production and using cheaper materials – but the tide is finally turning. Luxury brands are now rethinking their priorities and bringing manufacturing closer to home, hoping to maintain higher quality standards and improve working conditions.

Among them is Italian textile company Manteco, based near Prato. When brothers Marco and Matteo Mantellassi joined the family business in 2000, the trend in the industry was to manufacture everything in China. Instead, they decided to draw on the Tuscan tradition of making new fabrics out of old clothes. Last year, Manteco repurposed more than 3,151,700 pieces destined for landfills with the help of the region’s cenciaioli (textile workers). “This is a revolution in the fashion industry,” says Marco. It’s a future-proof idea that we hope will be recycled widely.

To find out more about brands that are investing in bringing manufacturing back to Europe, pick up a copy of Monocle’s March issue, on newsstands now.

Image: Artem Chekh

Culture / Ukraine

Lost for words

Many artists living in Ukraine abandoned their creative pursuits as normal life was put on hold after the Russian invasion. Andriy Lyubka, one of the country’s most successful poets, has stopped writing since Russian tanks rolled across the border last February. Lyubka is now using his public platform to raise funds and buy vehicles that he delivers to the front line. Other than Jeeps, he also brings soldiers coffee, chocolate and paintings from their children. “[I take] something that makes them feel like they’re at home,” he tells The Monocle Minute.

While Lyubka doesn’t know when he’ll start writing again, he is certain that the past year will have a huge effect on the next subject that he chooses to explore. “I want to write about this experience,” he says. “But it’s also possible that I will write something that isn’t about the war – maybe fantasy or some kind of utopia, something good and bright. I miss the feeling of typing on my computer but my main goal now is just to survive in the biological, physical sense.”

This is part three of Monocle’s weeklong series on the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine. Listen to the full report on today’s episode of The Globalist.

Monocle 24 / The Entrepreneurs

Phoenyx Spirits

Robert Black and Benedict Gordon are the founders of Phoenyx Spirits, a company that owns and operates revived heritage brands. Having secured a wide portfolio of trademarks, Black and Gordon tell us about the first revitalised brands that they have launched: premium bitter liqueurs Khoosh and Dr Hostetter’s. But how did it all start? And how do you stay true to a brand’s history while making it contemporary?

Monocle Films / Paris

Alexandre Guirkinger

Mont Blanc is one the world’s most famous mountains – and its deadliest. We asked French photographer Alexandre Guirkinger to create a portrait of this peak and the people who dwell in its powerful shadow. In our latest film, Guirkinger speaks about the process behind the assignment and how he captured the mountain’s enthralling, luring mix of beauty and danger. Discover more with The Monocle Book of Photography, which is available to buy today.


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