Monday 24 April 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 24/4/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Diego Figone/IJF

Opinion / Tom Webb

Hot off the press

At first glance, the programme of the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, which ended yesterday, seemed a little glum. Over some 250 sessions, about 600 speakers were in the Umbrian capital to discuss the industry and how it should tackle a growing number of challenges, from securing funding to protecting freedom of speech and managing misinformation.

Sebastian Lai, son of jailed China critic and former Apple Daily boss Jimmy Lai, hosted a session about his father’s plight and what remains of a free press in Hong Kong. After his talk in the medieval Piazza San Francesco, Lai told Monocle about how independent journalists in the special administrative region are struggling to maintain even the vestiges of press freedom, and the failure of the international community to challenge the Chinese government.

Though journalism undeniably faces significant hurdles, it was reassuring to see some optimism, talent and bravery at most venues, often among those who must contend with autocratic governments. Inside the 13th-century San Francesco al Prato, Natália Viana, co-founder of Brazilian investigative group Agência Pública, explained how she challenged state-supported networks of misinformation during the 2022 election. Meanwhile, Yavuz Baydar, editor of the Free Turkish Press news site, described how he manages a network of anonymous journalists in countries neighbouring Turkey. Their role? To gather information and hold governments (and less rigorous outlets of the international media) to account. At the Sala della Vaccara, he spoke with pride of his website’s achievements and its importance in these closing weeks of the Turkish election campaign.

Despite the challenges that journalists face, they can adapt, overcome obstacles and help us to make sense of an increasingly complex world. That means looking for positive stories beyond the gloomy headlines.

Tom Webb is Monocle’s deputy head of radio. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Reuters


Control group

Three Tennessee lawmakers who faced expulsion last month after taking part in gun-control protests will meet Joe Biden at the White House today. The so-called “Tennessee Three” – Justin Jones, Gloria Johnson and Justin J Pearson (pictured, centre) – joined hundreds of demonstrators on a march into the state capitol in Nashville after a deadly school shooting in the city. In response, the Republican-controlled state legislature voted to expel two of them (though they were later reinstated by local leaders). Last week the president renewed calls for a nationwide ban on assault weapons. Though the US has already suffered more than 160 mass shootings this year, Biden faces an uphill battle. “The events in Tennessee showed a Republican majority abusing the power of the assembly to stamp out legislators expressing a political opinion,” Scott Lucas, professor of US politics at University College Dublin, tells The Monocle Minute. “The Biden administration knows that his power is limited on gun legislation but it will be a significant symbolic meeting that will make a point about the current state of the democratic process.”

Image: Reuters


Test of metal

Chile’s president, Gabriel Boric, announced plans to nationalise his country’s lithium industry last week, just as global demand for the metal – an essential component in the production of electric-vehicle batteries – is soaring. Critics claim that the move will deter foreign investment and hamper the South American nation’s private sector but state intervention of this kind has a historical precedent.

“It mirrors Chilean president Salvador Allende’s decision to nationalise the country’s copper mines in the 1970s,” says Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, a senior lecturer at Birkbeck, University of London. “This matters at a time when Latin American countries are seeking stronger economic ties with countries from the Asia-Pacific region and Africa, and as their relations with the US continue to evolve.” How Chile leverages its resources will influence its standing in the Americas and beyond. For now, nothing – except the lithium itself – is set in stone.

Image: Alamy


Spending power

The Seoul Metropolitan Government and Korea Tourism Organization have teamed up with LVMH to attract more high-spending visitors to South Korea. The country’s citizens are the world’s biggest spenders on luxury goods, shelling out $16.8bn (€15.3bn) in 2022, according to Morgan Stanley. And with K-pop stars becoming ambassadors for Western brands such as Tiffany & Co and Christian Dior, there’s an increasing international fascination with the east Asian nation.

Hoping to turn the nation’s cultural clout abroad into a boost in arrivals, South Korea’s government has (rather clunkily) dubbed 2023-24 the “Visit Korea Year”. The signs, so far, are promising. Nicolas Ghesquière, Louis Vuitton’s artistic director of women’s collections, will stage his first “pre-fall” runway show this Saturday on Seoul’s Jamsu Bridge. “It’s a strange deal between nation and brand,” says Rebecca Tay, a luxury-brand consultant and regular guest on Monocle Radio. “But LVMH has a strong hospitality arm. Perhaps the tourist board is considering new hotel developments in Seoul.”

Image: Alamy


Fast track

Denmark and Sweden have many things in common – and the two countries are now on track to become the first international neighbours to share a metro line. When built, the Öresund Metro will pass between Copenhagen and Malmö and halve the journey time between the cities to less than 20 minutes, thanks to a tunnel beneath the Öresund strait.

As well as promoting cross-border mobility, the connection will help to ease congestion on the beautiful but often gridlocked Öresund Bridge (pictured). According to official figures, the bridge already accommodates some 30,000 train passengers a day and demand is likely to double over the next decade or so. The new metro line, which will cost about 30 billion Danish krone (€4bn) to build, also aims to head off further bottlenecks expected to result from the construction of the new Fehmarn Belt tunnel linking Germany and Denmark, which is due to open in 2029. The bad news? Without a date set for its opening, the Öresund Metro won’t be easing the tailbacks any time soon.

For more insight and analysis on the upcoming Copenhagen/Malmö metro line, tune in to ‘The Globalist’.

Image: Alamy

Monocle Radio / The Urbanist

Çamlıca Tower, Istanbul

Hannah Lucinda Smith admires a beautiful piece of telecommunications infrastructure in the hills of Istanbul.

Monocle Films / Sicily

Sicily’s tropical produce

Climate change is prompting fruit farmers to diversify and coffee roasters to start considering areas beyond the so-called bean belt to source their raw material. In Sicily, Morettino, a forward-looking family-run roastery, has already started growing coffee plants in Palermo, creating an espresso that is truly made in Italy. To discover more surprising business opportunities, subscribe to Monocle magazine today.


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