Wednesday 3 April 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 3/4/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Mourners attend the funeral of Al Jazeera cameraman Samer Abu Daqqa, who was killed by an Israeli drone strike

Image: Getty Images

Media / Andrew Mueller

Broadcast ban

Silencing the media is a step that no democracy should take lightly, for a couple of reasons. Most obviously, democracies should not be in the business of it. More importantly, it rarely works, at least not sufficiently to warrant the damage occasioned to your democratic credentials.

Israel appears determined to embark upon this folly. The Knesset has passed a law enabling the government to temporarily ban foreign networks deemed hazardous to national security. The obvious principal target is Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera.

It is scarcely a revelation that Israel does not appreciate Al Jazeera’s coverage. In 2021, Israel bombed the building that housed Al Jazeera’s bureau in Gaza. Al Jazeera employees are among the dozens of Palestinian journalists who have been killed during the current conflict.

There is, sometimes, a case for a nation punting a network off its airwaves. The EU and UK have blocked Russian propaganda outlet RT, which is probably fair enough. Al Jazeera is a legitimate news agency, which assuredly has institutional biases (don’t we all?); RT is a mouthpiece for a hostile regime besieging one European country – and menacing the entire continent.

But any such ban is only symbolic. A European determined to watch RT still can: a recent investigation by Radio Free Europe demonstrated that with the necessary VPN, one could do so from inside the European Commission. In Israel, those who will cheer the silencing of Al Jazeera loudest were least likely to have been tuning in anyway.

Israel is fond of asserting – and justifying – itself as the Middle East’s only democracy. There is more to being a democracy, however, than holding elections, even at Israel’s giddy frequency. Granted, conflict rarely makes a country more liberal – but the reputation developed during a war can last long into any peace.

Andrew Mueller is a contributing editor at Monocle and presenter of ‘The Foreign Desk’ on Monocle Radio. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Open doors: Inditex shops reopen in Ukraine

Retail / Ukraine

Return to the fold

Inditex, the parent company of brands such as Zara, Bershka and Pull&Bear, will reopen 20 of its shops in Ukraine today. The company has also resumed online sales for Ukrainian consumers. McDonalds, H&M, Pandora and Yves Rocher are among other retailers to have reopened shops in Ukraine that has been forced to close following the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022.

The move comes at a time of positive economic growth for the country. “According to the latest official data, Ukraine’s retail turnover grew by 15 per cent in 2023, compared to a 21 per cent decline in 2022,” Hlib Vyshlinsky, executive director at Kyiv-based think-tank Centre for Economic Strategy, tells The Monocle Minute. “Ikea is the only major retailer that is yet to reopen. Further growth is expected this year, provided that the promised financial and military help arrives from G7 nations,” adds Vyshlinsky. “In contrast, there is growing anger towards companies that are still trading in Russia, which face the risk of having their assets confiscated.”

Mobility / South Korea

On the fast track

South Korea has unveiled the KTX-Cheongnyong, a new class of bullet train that boasts a maximum speed of 320km per hour. The high-speed train will enable passengers to travel from Seoul to Busan in 2 hours and 10 minutes, and from Yongsan to Gwangju in 1 hour and 30 minutes. The KTX-Cheongnyong (“Blue Dragon”) will enter service in May.

The project’s construction, which first began in 2007, used entirely domestic technology to allow for advanced acceleration and deceleration capabilities, specifically adapted for short distances between stops and many curves in the line. The new model will also increase seating capacity by 136 passengers. After unveiling the KTX-Cheongnyong, South Korea’s president, Yoon Suk Yeol, announced that the country plans to expand the high-speed rail network nationwide in a bid to make the entire nation reachable within two hours.

Society / Portugal

To the letter

Portugal unveiled an official government typeface this week as part of a national visual-identity rebrand. The Portuguesa font combines serif and sans-serif elements and can be used in more than 250 different languages as a result of its expansive range of glyphs. Dino dos Santos, the typeface’s designer, has previously created fonts for global events and companies such as Expo 2020 Dubai, the 2022 Fifa World Cup and Corticeira Amorim, and can now add Portugal’s state budget, government documentation and civil-service communications to his list. Dos Santos made it clear why the launch of Portuguesa was important. “In the disinformation era, having an established government font means that people can immediately recognise official documents and statements.”

Beyond the Headlines

The List / Aviation

Sky’s the limit

International travel is gearing up for the summer holiday season and this week there have been plenty of new flight-route announcements from aviation companies around the world. Here’s Monocle’s round-up of the routes that we think will be the most well-trodden.

Japan Airlines has started its inaugural non-stop service from Japan to the Middle East, connecting Tokyo-Haneda Airport to Doha as part of a flourishing economic relationship between Qatar and Japan.

Air France has reconnected its seasonal Paris to Denver route, with further plans to launch Paris to Minneapolis and Paris to Phoenix routes in May. It’s all part of Air France’s plan to boost travel between central US states and continental Europe.

China Southern Airlines, one of China’s three state carriers, announced plans to open 17 long-haul international routes as a result of an increased travel demand this year. While the full list is yet to be released, officials have named Amsterdam, London, Riyadh and Tehran as part of the expansion. The company seeks to boost its sales after travel restrictions were lifted in China last year.

Monocle Radio / The Menu

A taste of Poland

This week, we get a taste of Polish cuisine. We sit down with Ren Behan to discuss her new book, ‘The Sweet Polish Kitchen’. Also in the programme, Julia Lasica heads to the renowned Ognisko in London’s South Kensington to find out more about the historic restaurant. Plus: Mateusz Mazzini is in Warsaw to visit local wine bar Brać and learn about the emerging Polish wine industry.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00