Entera Bio Initiates New Research Program For Oral GLP-2

"' Program Leverages Entera's Platform for Potential Development of Oral GLP–2 Analogs for Gastrointestinal and Other Indications "'
"' GLP–2 Analogs Currently Administered Via Daily Injection to Treat Short Bowel Syndrome "'

BOSTON, Mass. & JERUSALEM, Feb. 08, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Entera Bio Ltd. (NASDAQ: ENTX), a leader in the development of orally delivered large molecule therapeutics, today announced a new research program for an oral glucagon–like peptide–2 (GLP–2) analog based on the Company's platform technology. GLP–2, a peptide produced in the intestine and the central nervous system via the brainstem and hypothalamus, is known to enhance intestinal absorption, specifically the increased absorption of nutrients.

The only GLP–2 analog currently on the market, teduglutide, was approved in 2012 as a once daily injection for the treatment of short bowel syndrome in the U.S. and Europe, registering global sales of $574 million in 2019. In preclinical models, Entera's oral formulation of a GLP–2 analog has shown a comparable pharmacokinetic profile to a subcutaneous injection. The ability of GLP–2 analogs to improve intestinal function, combined with new findings about the gut–bone and gut–brain connections, indicates these peptides may also have a role in the treatment of other diseases.

"We see significant potential for Entera's platform technology beyond our lead programs in human parathyroid hormone. GLP–2 is a very good fit with our platform from a technical perspective and also meets our strategic objective of developing patient friendly, orally delivered drugs to improve convenience and compliance, while lowering treatment costs," stated Entera CEO Spiros Jamas. "GLP–2 analogs are an important category of new therapies for many metabolic diseases and therefore we believe this product candidate is well positioned for partnering opportunities."

Entera's platform technology, which enables the oral delivery of large molecules, has the potential for use in biologics which represented approximately 30% of all U.S. FDA drug approvals between 2015 and 2018, and $20 billion in annual sales.

About Entera Bio

Entera is a leader in the development of orally delivered large molecule therapeutics for use in areas with significant unmet medical need where adoption of injectable therapies is limited due to cost, convenience and compliance challenges for patients. The Company's proprietary, oral drug delivery technology is designed to address the technical challenges of poor absorption, high variability, and the inability to deliver large molecules to the targeted location in the body through the use of a synthetic absorption enhancer to facilitate the absorption of large molecules, and protease inhibitors to prevent enzymatic degradation and support delivery to targeted tissues. The Company's most advanced product candidates, EB613 for the treatment of osteoporosis and EB612 for the treatment of hypoparathyroidism are in Phase 2 clinical development. Entera also licenses its technology to biopharmaceutical companies for use with their proprietary compounds and, to date, has established a collaboration with Amgen Inc. For more information on Entera Bio, visit www.enterabio.com.

Forward Looking Statements

Various statements in this release are "forward–looking statements" under the securities laws. Words such as, but not limited to, "anticipate," "believe," "can," "could," "expect," "estimate," "design," "goal," "intend," "may," "might," "objective," "plan," "predict," "project," "target," "likely," "should," "will," and "would," or the negative of these terms and similar expressions or words, identify forward–looking statements. Forward–looking statements are based upon current expectations that involve risks, changes in circumstances, assumptions and uncertainties. Forward–looking statements should not be read as a guarantee of future performance or results and may not be accurate indications of when such performance or results will be achieved.

Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those reflected in Entera's forward–looking statements include, among others: changes in our interpretation of the interim data from the ongoing Phase 2 clinical trial of EB613, the timing of data readouts from the ongoing Phase 2 clinical trial of EB613, unexpected changes in our ongoing and planned preclinical development and clinical trials, the timing of and our ability to make regulatory filings and obtain and maintain regulatory approvals for our product candidates; a possible suspension of the Phase 2 clinical trial of EB613 for clinical or data–related reasons; the impact of COVID–19 on Entera's business operations including the ability to collect the necessary data from the Phase 2 trial of EB613; the potential disruption and delay of manufacturing supply chains, loss of available workforce resources, either by Entera or its collaboration and laboratory partners, due to travel restrictions, lay–offs or forced closures or repurposing of hospital facilities; impacts to research and development or clinical activities that Entera is contractually obligated to provide, such as pursuant to Entera's agreement with Amgen; overall regulatory timelines, if the FDA or other authorities are closed for prolonged periods, choose to allocate resources to review of COVID–19 related drugs or believe that the amount of Phase 2 clinical data collected are insufficient to initiate a Phase 3 trial, or a meaningful deterioration of the current political, legal and regulatory situation in Israel or the United States; the availability, quality and timing of the data from the Phase 2 clinical trial of EB613 in osteoporosis patients; the ability find a dose that demonstrates the comparability of EB613 to FORTEO in the ongoing Phase 2 clinical trial of EB613; the size and growth of the potential market for EB613 and Entera's other product candidates including any possible expansion of the market if an orally delivered option is available in addition to an injectable formulation; the scope, progress and costs of developing Entera's product candidates including GLP–2; Entera's reliance on third parties to conduct its clinical trials; Entera's expectations regarding licensing, business transactions and strategic collaborations; Entera's operation as a development stage company with limited operating history; Entera's ability to continue as a going concern absent access to sources of liquidity; Entera's expectations regarding its expenses, revenue, cash resources, liquidity and financial condition; Entera's ability to raise additional capital; Entera's interpretation of FDA feedback and guidance and how such guidance may impact its clinical development plans; Entera's ability to obtain and maintain regulatory approval for any of its product candidates; Entera's ability to comply with Nasdaq's minimum listing standards and other matters related to compliance with the requirements of being a public company in the United States; Entera's intellectual property position and its ability to protect its intellectual property; and other factors that are described in the "Special Note Regarding Forward–Looking Statements," "Risk Factors" and "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations" sections of Entera's annual and current filings which are on file with the SEC and available free of charge on the SEC's website at http://www.sec.gov. Additional factors may be set forth in those sections of Entera's Quarterly Report on Form 6–K for the quarter ended September 30, 2020, filed with the SEC in the fourth quarter of 2020. In addition to the risks described above and in Entera's annual report on Form 20–F and current reports on Form 6–K and other filings with the SEC, other unknown or unpredictable factors also could affect Entera's results. There can be no assurance that the actual results or developments anticipated by Entera will be realized or, even if substantially realized, that they will have the expected consequences to, or effects on, Entera. Therefore, no assurance can be given that the outcomes stated in such forward–looking statements and estimates will be achieved.

All written and verbal forward–looking statements attributable to Entera or any person acting on its behalf are expressly qualified in their entirety by the cautionary statements contained or referred to herein. Entera cautions investors not to rely too heavily on the forward–looking statements Entera makes or that are made on its behalf. The information in this release is provided only as of the date of this release, and Entera undertakes no obligation, and specifically declines any obligation, to update or revise publicly any forward–looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.


Learning to Prevent the Next Pandemic: VaxHunt Game Earns STEM.org Educational Trustmark

WASHINGTON, Feb. 08, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — When it comes to vaccine information and pandemics, words like authentic and trusted matter, even in the gaming environment. Students, teachers, and life–long learners can play VaxHunt: The Quest to Prevent the Next Pandemic with the confidence that each module has been thoroughly reviewed by STEM.org Educational Research(SER) and awarded its STEM.org Authenticated trustmark.

Inspiring the next–generation of vaccine scientists to tackle influenza is key to preventing the next pandemic. VaxHunt is an online game featuring trivia and puzzle challenges where players explore:

  • The threat and history of influenza pandemics
  • Why we need a vaccine to prevent an influenza pandemic
  • The challenges of developing influenza vaccines
  • How these challenges may be met through innovative, transdisciplinary science

Educational resources bearing the STEM.org Authenticated trustmark conform to vetted STEM standards, including criteria for support materials, diversity and inclusion, socialization and communication, imagination and cognition, and STEM careers. The trustmark assures students, educators, parents, and others that these products will:

  • Integrate seamlessly into STEM–friendly classrooms and homes
  • Align to Science, Technology, Engineering, and/or Math standards
  • Support the development of 21st century skills
  • Engage users through hands–on learning and collaboration

According to Andrew B. Raupp, Executive Director of STEM.org Educational Research, "VaxHunt helps strengthen STEM learning skills while promoting STEM education. This accomplishment will serve as an inspiration to others who aspire to be the best and reaffirms your ability to captivate those who value STEM at home and in their communities."

Introduced in December 2020 at the annual conference of the European Scientific Working Group on Influenza, VaxHunt also engaged the BioBus New York City Virus Hunters student program in game development review and testing.

Now is the time to fuel next–generation vaccine innovation. This will require a new generation of bold flu fighters to accelerate critical vaccine research and development. Learn more and join the quest at https://www.influenzer.org/vaxhunt

About the Influenzer Initiative

The Influenzer Initiative, led by the Sabin Vaccine Institute, is engaging creative thinkers from diverse sectors, working to accelerate the development of a universal influenza vaccine. Our current work continues to examine the on–going global response to COVID–19 as a means to inform and inspire the pursuit of universal vaccine protection against influenza. We assess how beneficial changes in practices and policies""across the science and technology landscape, vaccine development and regulatory science, public–private partnerships, and pandemic preparedness""can be sustained to prevent future pandemics.

ABOUT STEM.org

Founded in 2001, STEM.org Educational Research(SER) is America's longest continually operating, privately held STEM education research and credentialing organization. Working closely with pedagogical researchers, an international coalition of educators, administrators, NGO's and schools, SER has established a trusted set of STEM benchmarks. SER has served over 9,500 schools, districts, and organizations in over 80+ countries, as well as such globally recognized brands as Disney, Geomag, Learning Resources, Creation Crate, Modular Robotics, hand2mind, Play–Doh, Educational Insights and Magformers. The resources and proven best–practices of this initiative have produced the world's original and most recognized, blockchain–secured algorithmic STEM credentialing framework: STEM.org Accredited for Programs, STEM.org Certified for People, and STEM.org Authenticated for Products.

Media Contact:

Mary Beth Woodin
press@sabin.org

Photos accompanying this announcement are available at

https://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/7c1a06a5–5baa–4173–bac1–bbeee9c86120

https://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/fd63c2af–8ce0–4e9b–acfb–a655dddadf2b


Is Turkey a Proof that Religion and Democracy Cannot Coexist?

Nazlan Ertan

By Sania Farooqui
NEW DELHI, India, Feb 8 2021 – Over the years, Turkey has survived three Coup d’état in which its military forces took power, in 1960, 1971 and 1980. The coup in 1997, was carried out in a “post-modern way”, where generals sat down with the then prime minister, Necmettin Erbakan and forced him to resign. However the turning point in Turkey has been the failed coup attempt in July 2016, which has till date been one of the bloodiest coup attempts in its political history, leaving 241 people killed, and 2,194 others injured.

Soldiers and tanks took to the streets, explosions rang out in Ankara and Istanbul, fighter jets dropped bombs on their own parliament, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Hulusi Akar, was kidnapped by his own security detail. Thousands of citizens gathered in streets and squares around Anatolia to oppose the coup and with the help of loyalist soldiers and police forces, defeated the coup attempt.

“Freedom of expression in Turkey continues to backslide, particularly after the 2016 attempted coup,” says journalist Nazlan Ertan to IPS News. “Currently 70 journalists in Turkey are in jail, and some 170 media outlets have been closed down since 2016. More than 80 percent of the press institutions – newspapers and TV channels we considered admiral ships – are now in the hands of the companies close to the government. Key news either goes unreported, or comes out heavily biased,” says Nazlan.

In october 2020, eleven international rights groups issued a statement on Turkey’s clamp down on its press freedom,including its efforts to silence the press by stepping up online censorship through the new law targeting social media, mobilization partisan regulatory bodies, and launching a new offensive against judicial independence by targeting Turkey’s Constitutional Court (TCC). The group also flagged the continued jailing and prosecution of journalists as well as ongoing concerns over the safety of journalists and judicial independence.

International community must step up its bilateral and multilateral efforts to bring Turkey back into the club of countries that respects the rule of law, the group said.

According to Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2019, 130,000 public officials were dismissed following the 2016 coup over alleged association with U.S. – based Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen. Turkey’s Ministry of Justice stated that as of June, “almost one-fifth of the total prison population was charged or convicted of terrorism offenses. Others have been charged with “insulting the president”.

A Turkish court on Friday resumed its high-profile show trial targeting leading Turkish civil society figure and philanthropist Osman Kavala accused of espionage and attempting to overthrow the constitutional order in the 2016 coup. Kavala has been accused of collaborating with Henri Barkey, a prominent U.S. based Turkey scholar who has been accused of having links to Fethullah Gulen’s network, which Ankara says orchestrated the coup attempt.

The court rejected Osman Kavala’s request to be released, and also ruled to merge two ongoing proceedings against Kavala and adjourned the trial until May 21, extending his detention since late 2017 by nearly four months.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blamed the wife of jailed philanthropist Osman Kavala for provoking student protests at Bogazici University where she is an acclaimed academic. A report in Bloomberg stated that Erdogan called Ayse Bugra a “provocator” and her husband a “representative” of George Soros in Turkey.

Hundreds of protestors have been arrested at the university since January 4, including others who have been arrested at demonstrations in support of the students and LGBTQ rights in cities such as Ankara, Izmir and Bursa.

According to Nazlan, Bogazici University is a “microcosmos of all the issues we talk about in Turkey – academic freedom, independence, the right to assembly, LGBTQ movements and more”.

“Ever since the protests have started, hundreds of students have been taken into custody, those who expressed a rightful and peaceful opposition to the government appointed rector were vilified, the president and his cronies referred to them as terrorists, vandals, or “snakes whose heads should be crushed.”

The LGBTQ students who demonstrated with a rainbow flag were called “perverts who had no place in Turkey” by the Interior Minister,” says Nazlan.

The European Union and the United Nations has condemned these homophobic comments and called for demonstrators to be released.

Rights group Amnesty International has called on the government of Turkey to take urgent action to counter the increasing number of discriminatory statements and policies by the State officials against LGBTQ people. In a statement published in 2020, the rights group had urged the authorities to promote “equality both in their statements and actions.”

Nazlan adds that women in Turkey who have often used humour to make their voices heard, their situation continues to remain grim. In 2019, 474 women were murdered, mostly by partners and relatives and the figures in 2020, affected by coronavirus lockdhowns, are expected to be even higher.

“Women have been on the streets and various hashtags have surfaced – such as #ChallengeAccepted, #IstanbulConventionSavesLives and also #menshouldknowtheirplace. Domestic violence has increased, nearly half of all the women claim that they have faced some form of physical or psychological abuse in their lives,” says Nazlan.

Much before these brutal crackdowns on dissent following the attempted coup two years ago, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held promises of turning Turkey into a “beacon of democracy for a region rife with religious conflict”, except today authoritaianism has destroyed the country and “the current Bogazici protests – which are still going on – is an example that no opposition is tolerated in Turkey anymore, no matter how peaceful or democratic,” says Nazlan.

The author is a journalist and filmmaker based out of New Delhi. She hosts a weekly online show called The Sania Farooqui Show where Muslim women from around the world are invited to share their views.

 


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US-Russia Arms Control: Is Biden off to a Good Start?

By Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury
SINGAPORE, Feb 8 2021 (IPS-Partners)

President Joseph Biden of the United states and President Vladimir Putin of Russia vide a telephone talk have agreed to extend the New Start treaty beyond the expiry date of 5th February of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty or New-START by another five years. By ageing to do so, President Biden was reversing the decision of his predecessor, President Donald Trump. It is actually the only remaining agreement that curtails US and Russian nuclear forces.

Dr. Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury

The New Start limits both sides to no more than 700 ICBMs, SLBMs and nuclear-capable bombers, and 1500 deployed strategic warheads. The numbers are the lowest since 1960s. Sheer numbers, more often than not, do not tell the whole story. Within the treaty framework one could introduce qualitative improvements, or new weaponry that could add capabilities and upset the equilibrium. This has always been an apple of discord between the parties.

An immediate positive spin-off of the extension would be the continuation of the Bilateral Consultative Commission to discuss the aforementioned issues, among other things. The Commission meets periodically to discuss all matters of treaty operations. Of late both parties have been concerned about certain doctrinal adjustments on either side: the US over the perceived ‘”escalation for de-escalation” and associated ‘hybrid war’ policies of the Russians, and Russia over the defensive measures undertaken by the US , as well as addition of low-yield weapons to US arsenal, both of which they assess as destabilizing.

It would be appropriate here to discuss some element of the Russian nuclear doctrine that western and non-Russian readership might not be familiar with. Briefly this is encompassed in the two concepts of SDERZIVANIE (“nuclear restraint”) and USTRASHENIE (“intimidation”).This combination is meant to persuade the adversary that it has no chance of achieving its strategic goals by force, and this policy, which implies use of conventional and strategic weaponry, remains in operation in peacetime and war , nuclear weapons being only one tool in the broad tool-kit of warfare. It, therefore, encompasses the western concept of deterrence, as well as coercive warfare and compellence, and is designed to be a multi-domain cross-cutting effort using both soft and hard power. Hence the western perception of Russian doctrine as “’hybrid”.

On 2 June 2020, President Putin signed off (Executive Order 355) on an important document that outlines Russia’s current strategic doctrine. It entails a systematized asymmetric approach, underscoring the severity and certainty of ‘’ punishment”. The document lists a whole series of activities by the adversary that may be constituted as a threat to Russia, and/or its “allies” to be “neutralized by the implementation of nuclear deterrence” (translation: ‘’by use of nuclear weapons”). The order also allows for the use of nuclear weapons not only to counter the enemy’s similar capabilities, but also ‘other types of weapons of mass destruction or significant combat potential of general purpose forces”. Western analysts read this as a wide range of options to introduce nuclear weapons at an early stage of conflict to prevent its spread, reconfirming the so-called “escalate to de-escalate” strategy.

One criticism of the New-START, and the Trump Administration made much of it, was the non-inclusion of China. While the Chinese armoury is barely one-tenth of that of the US, it possesses very advanced hypersonic platforms. Its DF 17 (“Deng Feng” or East wind) missiles can be mounted on hypersonic glide vehicle, which the Chinese are said to claim that could render the US Air defence systems in the Near East obsolete. At the 2019 October Revolution Anniversary parade, it displayed what was designated as DF 100, a very advanced hypersonic rocket that can “kill” large enemy ships, and even Carriers. A significant point about hypersonic vehicles is that even without weapons payload, it can unleash enormous destructive kinetic energy while impacting on targets because of its sheer speed! It is, however, difficult to see why China would, quite unnecessarily in its perception, subject itself to any agreement on constraining its capacity to be a comparable military rival to the US (or even Russia, for that matter).

The Biden Administration could use the New- START discussions to negotiate limits on new types of platforms such as Russia’s ‘’Avangard’’ hypersonic glide vehicles with speed of Mach 20 to 27, which means that many times the speed of sound ( any propulsion over Mach 5 is normally classified as ‘hypersonic’; only Russia and China possess such capabilities). This is one of six new strategic weapons unveiled by Russia in 2018. The Russian side can bring to the table their concerns about US missile defense; for instance, the 44 Ground based Interceptors or GBIs based in Alaska and California. It is important to note that the 1972 ABM Treaty was predicated on the theoretical proposition that since defensive measures of this kind erode retaliatory strike-capability of the adversary, is hence destabilizing, the assumption being that vulnerability encourages good strategic behaviour. The Republican legislators in the US, as a rule, tend to be “pro-defense” (recent voting patterns of Senators such as Messrs Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz and Joshua Hawley can be cited as a case in point). This factor may prove a modicum of constraint for Biden. The New Start would facilitate Strategic Stability Talks which will not perhaps produce agreements but will enhance understanding of each other’s doctrines and concerns. Particularly as the Russian concept of strategic SDERZIVANIE is more complex, using soft and hard power tools in peace and war.

The Trump Administration was said to be toying the idea of testing, which would have well and truly put the genie out of the bottle around the world. Experts view that the US, which has not tested since 1992 can make do with what is called ”Stockpile stewardship”. It is a process by which reliability is determined through simulations and supercomputers without having to conduct tests.

The Obama Administration had made a deal with the Senate to win New-Start ratification with a commitment for modernization of the US deterrent. So, Biden will have to continue with this over USD 1 tr programme. The so-called triad on which this deterrence is based has three legs: bomber aircraft, the land-based ICBMs, and the sea-based SLBMS.

The strategic bombers, 60 under the START Agreement, comprise such aircraft as the venerable B 52 and B-2 Stealth, highly mobile, and effective as both first and second strikers. As for ICBMS, Start permits 400 Minutemen 111 to be deployed. Some experts see these in immobile silos as more vulnerable and also due to their targeting inflexibility as of reduced strategic value and would argue for their elimination. The third and most effective leg, SLBMs, is also the smallest, only 14 deployed Trident Submarines. Since submarines are more difficult to track and destroy, they are most useful for second strike, which is the critical component of deterrence, and for this very reason, seen as a stabilizing factor in any nuclear balance. The US Navy will replace the current Ohio Class with Columbia Class. The latter will be interoperable with the British Dreadnaughts Class of submarines, poised to be deployed as British deterrence. This will signify further enhanced partnership between the two.

At some point in time the bilateral agreement could possibly be widened, but it will not be easy. China stands little to gain by constraining its capabilities in realpolitik terms. Also, nations who have the capability, and perceive security being linked to nuclear weaponization will do so. North Korea, for instance. Some others, who are also capable but see more current benefits in avoiding or delaying it would hedge, as Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Korea, and Iran. Happily, proliferation has not been as rampant as earlier feared. Some credit is owed to the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968 for this. So, this would be a good time for the US to back the various non -proliferation and arms control negotiations. For instance, the Biden Administration could encourage the reactivation of the nearly-defunct Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament, which is the sole existing multilateral disarmament forum, though that could be a tall order. But a good example, its critique notwithstanding, has been set by the Biden team in continuing with the New-START with Russia.

Meanwhile, the push by both the US and Russia, is to increase accuracy, which is measured by Circular Error Probability or CEP. If the CEP of a warhead is 10000 yards, it means 50% of the ordnance will fall within that distance of the target. Theoretically, increased precision is always suspect as it enhances propensity to use, which, in turn, encourages warfighting as opposed to deterrence. Indeed, at one point in 1974, the then US Defence Secretary, James Schlesinger, had propounded a ‘limited options” strategy, known as “Schlesinger doctrine, which was critiqued for just that. Unfortunately, this race to be one-up on the adversary, be it in terms of posture or policy, quality or quantum, will continue. Nuclear Strategists tend to share the same belief, two thousand years ago, of the classic Roman thinker, Cicero: Si vis Pacem, para bellum, if you want peace prepare for war.

Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury is the Honorary Fellow at the Institute of South Asia Studies, NUS. He is a former Foreign Advisor (Foreign Minister) of Bangladesh and President & Distinguished Fellow of Cosmos Foundation. The views addressed in the article are his own. He can be reached at: isasiac@nus.edu.sg

 


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Bangladesh Charges 3 Journalists under Digital Security Act

By External Source
NEW YORK, Feb 8 2021 (IPS-Partners)

In response to Bangladesh authorities’ recent filing of charges under the Digital Security Act against photographer Shafiqul Islam Kajol, writer Mushtaq Ahmed, and cartoonist and Kabir Kishore, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:

“We are extremely alarmed by Bangladeshi authorities’ continuous and blatant abuse of the Digital Security Act in an effort to silence any critical reporting in the country,” said Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s senior Asia researcher. “Authorities should immediately drop the charges against Shafiqul Islam Kajol, Kabir Kishore, and Mushtaq Ahmed, and release Kishore and Ahmed from prison.”

On February 4, police charged Kishore and Ahmed under the Digital Security Act, and charged Shafiqul Islam Kajol yesterday, according to news reports. Kishore and Mushtaq have been jailed since May 2020, according to CPJ research; Kajol was previously detained for nine months and was released on December 25, 2020, according to CPJ research on his case.

Authorities allege that Kishore and Ahmed violated the act by publishing propaganda, false or offensive information, and information that could destroy communal harmony and create unrest, according to police documents reviewed by CPJ. If convicted, they could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 10 million taka (US$118,000), according to the Digital Security Act.

A complaint filed last year alleges that Kajol violated the act by criticizing political leaders and spreading false information on his personal Facebook page, according to CPJ research on his case. Authorities allege that Kajol published false or offensive information, published or transmitted defamatory information, and made unauthorized use of identity information, according to the text of the law and court documents reviewed by CPJ. If convicted, he could face three years in prison each for the charges of publishing false or offensive information and transmitting defamatory information, and up to five years in prison for the charge of unauthorized use of identity information, as well as a fine of 300,000 to 500,000 taka (US$3,500-$6,000), set at the discretion of a judge.

Post-Coup Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi and the Way Forward

Kul Gautam, UNICEF Regional Director for Asia-Pacific meeting Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon in 1998.

By Kul Chandra Gautam
KATHMANDU, Nepal, Feb 8 2021 – The 1 February 2021 coup d’état by Myanmar’s military (Tatmadaw), has been widely condemned by all the world’s democratic leaders, human rights activists and genuine friends of the people of Myanmar around the globe. In an unusual manner for the world’s top diplomat, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has gone so far as to urge the world community to make sure that Myanmar’s military coup fails.

Like many other world leaders, he urged the military leadership to respect the will of the people of Myanmar as expressed in the 8 November 2020 general elections that gave Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) Party a resounding 83 % of the popular vote. Guterres called the reversal of those elections “absolutely unacceptable”.

Notwithstanding the Secretary-General’s strong call, the most powerful organ of the UN, the Security Council, issued a mild statement that failed to condemn the coup because of strong objection by China, a veto-wielding member of the Council with significant economic interests in Myanmar. Reflecting the Beijing government’s views, China’s state news agency Xinhua referred to the military coup simply as a “major Cabinet reshuffle”.

Given the potential veto by China and Russia (both permanent members of the Security Council that sell huge quantities of arms to Tatmadaw), it is unlikely that the Council will muster the courage or the unanimity needed to intervene or impose stern sanctions against the military junta.

However, even an indirect condemnation of the coup and a call for restoration of democratic institutions and respect for people’s human rights sends a clear signal of solidarity of the international community to the people of Myanmar to fight for their rights.

Donald Trump’s impact

The ostensible reason for the Tatmadaw’s putsch is their objection to apparent electoral irregularities in the November 2020 elections in which the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) suffered a humiliating defeat.

Coincidentally, the Tatmadaw’s charges of massive electoral fraud in Myanmar sound very similar to those of the former US President Donald Trump’s discredited claims of similar electoral fraud in the US presidential election. Indeed, the Trump administration’s cuddling of authoritarian regimes may have given some encouragement to the Burmese junta.

The junta was certainly aware that its power grab would be condemned by the new Biden administration in the US, the European Union and other democratic governments, and human rights groups around the world. But knowing it can count on strong support of China and Russia,
and tacit approval or acquiescence of its ASEAN neighbors and India too, seems to have given it the confidence that it can afford to withstand the opprobrium by the rest of the world.

The fact that Aung San Suu Kyi’s international stature has greatly diminished in recent years was probably another factor in the military’s calculation to dare to overthrow her.

However, it is difficult to fathom what Tatmadaw’s long-term calculations and strategy are. For an army that is despised by a large majority of the people of Myanmar, because of its decades of oppression and corruption that has gravely retarded the country’s development, it already enjoys a very favorable position under the current power-sharing arrangement with Suu Kyi.

It can appoint 25 percent of the members of parliament. It controls three of the most powerful government ministries in charge of national security. It is allowed to carry out very lucrative business ventures that has made many army generals among the richest people in the country.

The current power-sharing arrangement is such that if the elected government fails, the blame would go largely to its leader Aung San Suu Kyi, but if it succeeds the Tatmadaw too could claim some credit and brag that the Myanmar model of power-sharing works!

It is, therefore, baffling to figure out why the military would give up such a sweet-heart deal in pursuit of an uncertain future knowing that the putsch would push the country into the ranks of a pariah regime once again.

The speculation is that either the Tatmadaw leadership was fearful of the NLD government clipping its current prerogatives by attempting to amend the army-imposed constitution or more likely the top General Min Aung Hlaing’s inflated personal ambitions led him to make this pre-emptive strike.

Outfoxing each other

A decade ago, Tatmadaw and Aung San Suu Kyi negotiated a power-sharing deal. After Suu Kyi’s NLD Party scored a sweeping victory in the 2015 elections, Myanmar became the democratic darling of the world. It heralded the end of Myanmar’s international isolation, the blossoming of a relatively free media, as well as an explosion of social media.

Young Burmese flocked to the Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, followed by their elders soon afterwards. Tourism started flourishing. Foreign investment, particularly from neighboring ASEAN countries, and especially, China boomed.

International media and NGOs, banned during the military regime, flocked to Myanmar. And UN agencies severely constrained by highly restricted mandate and shortage of funding because of sanctions against the military regime by Western donors got a new lease of life and expanded their operations.

But the euphoria of Myanmar’s transition away from military rule to a seemingly liberal democracy was premature and exaggerated. It was more wishful and hopeful than the ground realities justified.

In the power-sharing deal she entered with Tatmadaw in 2011, Suu Kyi tentatively accepted the 2008 Constitution drafted by the military with a view to perpetuating its dominance on all key issues of “national security” under the garb of a pro-forma electoral democracy.

With her confidence in securing overwhelming election victory, Suu Kyi’s calculation was that she will be able to outfox the Tatmadaw and amend the constitution to weaken or eliminate the military’s power, and strengthen genuine democracy.

But it appears that the Tatmadaw actually outfoxed Suu Kyi. It even got her, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, to condone the military’s ethnic cleansing and genocidal oppression of the Rohingya Muslims and to cuddle Burman Buddhist xenophobia.

To the consternation of the international community, but continuing adulation of the ethnic Burman population, it turned out that as a politician Suu Kyi and Tatmadaw shared many common Bamar ethno-nationalist sentiments and deeply held prejudices against most non-Bamar ethnic communities, particularly the Rohingya Muslims, questioning their status as equal and patriotic citizens of Myanmar.

Forming and Spurning the Kofi Annan Commission

Stung by international criticism of Tatmadaw’s brutal oppression of the Rohingyas, and as a face-saving gesture, in 2016 Suu Kyi formed an international Advisory Commission on Rakhine State headed by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to propose measures to ensure the social and economic well-being of both the Buddhist, the Muslim and other ethnic communities in Myanmar’s conflict-ravaged regions.

In my view, this Commission came up with the best possible recommendations and a roadmap for not only Rakhine state but to ensure a sustainable, democratic, prosperous and equitable multi-ethnic future for all of Myanmar. But Suu Kyi essentially cold-shouldered Annan’s recommendations, perhaps fearing that the military would never accept them.

Inspired and disappointed by Suu Kyi

As a senior UNICEF official in the 1990s and 2000s, I had the opportunity to meet and interact with Suu Kyi as well as several senior Burmese military leaders, including the seemingly progressive General Thein Sein when he was the powerful Secretary-1 of the State Peace and Development Committee (SPDC) who later became Prime Minister and the first “elected” “civilian” President of Myanmar. He was the one who negotiated the power sharing deal with Suu Kyi in 2010.

I recall Suu Kyi, being an articulate and inspiring personality. Very strong-minded and stubborn at times, she presented herself as a staunch defender of democracy and human rights in Myanmar and globally. Her advocacy of a Gandhian non-violent civil disobedience and her reputation as a Mandela-like prisoner of conscience over a prolonged period, led to her winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

But like many of her previous admirers, including her fellow Nobel Prize laureates, I became deeply disappointed by her politically-calculated alliance with the military when she defended the indefensible ethnic cleansing of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim community at the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

Although Suu Kyi’s international stature as an icon of democracy and human rights has suffered irredeemably, she continues to be immensely popular domestically. If anybody can potentially tame Myanmar’s powerful Tatmadaw, it still continues to be Aung San Suu Kyi, given both her undiminished domestic popularity and her father General Aung San’s nationalist credentials and legacy.

Thus, despite all her flaws, I believe the international community has no choice but to support the restoration of democratic process in Myanmar led, in the near-term, by Suu Kyi and her NLD party.

The possible ways forward

However, in the longer term, both the people of Myanmar and the international community ought to internalize three important lessons from the Burmese conundrum of the past six decades: a) not to rely on the leadership of one individual, no matter how charismatic, b) the necessity of delegitimizing the privileged political role of Myanmar’s military, and c) looking beyond the necessary restoration of electoral democracy to a laser-like focus on tackling a range of issues that have perpetuated poverty, inequality and violent conflicts in this immensely resource-rich country that remains one of the poorest in the region.

Nobody believes the military’s promise that it will organize new elections in a year’s time and hand-over power to a newly-elected government. If free and fair elections are held, the military and its puppet party, the USDP, are likely to fare even worse than in the November 2020 general elections.

The junta maybe able to prolong its rule in the short-term by organizing sham elections and increased repression, but the durability of such a regime is questionable. We are already beginning to see the sprouting of a courageous campaign of civil disobedience in various forms, which is only likely to accelerate over time.

We can expect Tatmadaw to unleash harsh repression using all the tools and tricks in the authoritarians’ toolbox, starting with shutting down the internet and the social media. But there is no conceivable scenario under which the Tatmadaw can solve Myanmar’s entrenched problems and endear itself to a restive population.

In this day and age, harsh repression alone cannot ensure political stability. Even the military regime’s backers like China and most of the ASEAN countries that treasure political stability over democratic norms, are likely to abandon their active or tacit support of the junta, once they realize that a regime deeply despised by the populace and incapable of delivering sustainable development cannot ensure lasting stability and tranquility.

It is clear that the military has grossly misjudged the mood of the Burmese youth. Having tasted democracy and an open society during the past decade, Myanmar’s digitally savvy youth, like those of many other countries, are now so well-connected with their counterparts around the world, so well aware of their rights and their potential, so determined to pursue a prosperous future, that they will find many creative ways to outfox the military’s shenanigans.

Among the best proposals for a way forward is a solemn appeal by a wise and thoughtful religious leader, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference, and a Co-President of Religions for Peace International.

He made a strong case for “demilitarizing Myanmar”, warning even before the latest coup: “History teaches us, diplomats and peacemakers know, that there is never going to be a military solution to a political conflict. Pursuing military solutions leads only to endless war and endless misery”.

Following the coup, the Cardinal issued an urgent message addressed to the people of Myanmar; its civilian leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi; to the Myanmar military, and the international community.

The message calls for the people to stay calm, avoid violence, but pursue their goals peacefully.
The Bishop chastises the military for its empty promises and urges the junta to respect people’s rights as expressed through their elected representatives, writers, activists, and especially Myanmar’s youth. He urges Suu Kyi and the NLD leaders to continue dialogue and with Tatmadaw to overcome the new challenges created by the latest coup.

To the International community, the Bishop cautions how sanctions in the past brought few results, and to avoid measures that risk collapsing the economy and throwing millions into poverty.

I tend to agree with the Bishop that general sanctions are a blunt instrument that hurt ordinary people while the rich and the powerful find many ways to evade them. However, I believe there is room and need for tough but very specifically and narrowly targeted sanctions against the key perpetrators and enforcers of the military putsch and their business interests, while meticulously sparing the ordinary people.

The international community would be wise to follow the Burmese historian Thant Myint-U’s advice to avoid a narrow focus on political change and help ensure the protection of ordinary people’s lives and livelihoods as part of any international action to thwart the military coup.

“Myanmar needs a fresh path to democracy” he says, “Free and fair elections (and respect for the results) are essential. But also essential is the transformation of a society shaped by decades of dictatorship, international isolation, brutal armed conflict, racial and religious discrimination, extreme poverty and widening inequality”.

In a world struggling to recover from the ravages of the COVID pandemic, and many other epochal crises, the plight of the people of Myanmar may not get the full attention it deserves. But let us hope that the sentiments of global solidarity will inspire them to regain their inalienable human rights and dignity.

 


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How My Dad Captured This Famous Photo of Martin Luther King Jr.

In commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday this iconic photograph of the first meeting of King and Richard Nixon will be displayed at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, 400 N. Ashley Dr., Tampa, through April 19 as part of the inside exhibition, “Griff Davis- Langston Hughes, Letters and Photographs, 1947-1967: A Global Friendship. For more information about the exhibit and to learn more about Griff Davis via video, please go to www.fmopa.org.

By Dorothy M. Davis
TAMPA, Florida, Feb 8 2021 – My dad, Griff Davis, was a boyhood friend of Martin Luther King, Jr. They ran in the same crowd and, after graduating from Morehouse College, stayed in touch their whole lives. Dad, who was both an international photojournalist and U.S. Foreign Service officer, captured a famous photo of a rising “M.L.,” as they called him in Atlanta, and Vice President Richard Nixon meeting for the first time in newly independent Ghana in 1957. That photo couldn’t have been made in America at the time.

Dad was 24 when he graduated from Morehouse in 1947. After M.L. graduated a year later at 19, they both set out to make their lives, knowing that they had a right to dream and the tools to make those dreams come true. They only needed experience.

In 1947, Langston Hughes arrived at Atlanta University as the visiting professor for creative writing. Recognizing that Dad was the photographer for the campuses of the Atlanta University Center and the Atlanta Daily World, Hughes adopted him as his photographer in Atlanta.

Dad became the first roving editor of Ebony magazine at Hughes’ recommendation to its founder and publisher. He subsequently graduated in the Class of ‘49 from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism while renting a room in Hughes’ home. It turned into his home base while working as the only African-American international freelance photojournalist for Black Star, the first privately owned picture agency in the United States. His work appeared in Fortune, Ebony, Time, Modern Photography, Steelways and Der Spiegel.

During this time, he made three separate trips to Liberia, which with Ethiopia were the only independent black countries in Africa and among the charter members of the United Nations in 1945.

My parents returned to Liberia in late 1952 after Dad passed the foreign service exam, the beginning of his 35-year career. Unlike their white counterparts, African-American Foreign Service officers at the time were posted by the U.S. State Department only to Liberia or Haiti.

When Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah led the Gold Coast to independence from Britain in 1957 to become the new nation of Ghana, our family was ending a four-year tour in Liberia. Back in the United States in 1955, Rosa Parks had been arrested after refusing to give up her bus seat, and King had come to national prominence as the leader of the Montgomery bus boycott.

Vice President Richard Nixon and Patricia Nixon led the official U.S. delegation to Ghana’s Independence Day ceremonies — Nixon’s first trip to Africa. King and Mrs. Coretta Scott King had been invited by Ghana’s prime minister himself on the heels of the end of the Montgomery bus boycott. It was also the Kings’ first trip to Africa.

Having attended Lincoln University, Kwame Nkrumah was very aware of the racial dynamics in the United States and had been following the American civil rights movement. He could equate it to the colonialism in his own country. Recognizing the common fight for freedom between the two movements, he used the Independence Day celebrations of Ghana as a global platform to bring key people together. This included Ralph Bunche, the first person of color to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, in his new capacity as undersecretary of the United Nations.

The U.S. Information Service (USIS) assigned my Dad to cover Nixon’s visit to Liberia and Ghana, one of only 20 official photographers to cover Ghana’s independence celebrations. It was the first African country to become decolonized.

The Kings arrived in Accra, the capital, on March 4, 1957 and attended a reception at Legon University. That’s where he met Nixon. As the official photographer for the Nixon delegation and former photojournalist, my father took the picture of their first meeting.

Dad said, “When they met, Nixon invited M.L. to come by his office the next time he travelled to Washington. … It was ironic to me that Montgomery, Ala., and Washington, D.C., had to meet at Accra, outside the United States. However, it was only a short time later that M.L. and his nonviolent movement entered upon the national scene in America.”

The next time my father saw M.L. and Coretta Scott King was back in the U.S. at my Dad’s 10th year class reunion at Morehouse in June 1957. They were building the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). In 1963, my father attended the March on Washington in Washington, DC and heard M.L. give his “I Have A Dream” speech. It reminded him of their teachings at Morehouse. He last saw M.L. at the Capitol in Montgomery at the conclusion of the March from Selma in 1965. In 1966, our family was posted to Nigeria. M.L. was scheduled to visit Nigeria the week after he was assassinated.

All through the years since their college days, M.L. and Dad exchanged greeting cards at Christmas. This is the message in the last Christmas card:

“We who know we are brothers,” M.L. said, “have a duty to bring others back into the broken family of man, into our world house. In the context of the modern world, we must live together as brothers or we shall perish divided as fools.”

This story was first published by Tampa Bay Times

Dorothy Davis, president of Dorothy M. Davis Consulting and Griffith J. Davis Photographs and Archives, is a member of the board of directors of the Tampa Bay Businesses for Culture and the Arts and United Nations Association-USA Chapter Tampa Bay Chapter. She serves on the Board of Directors and program committee of the St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs.

 


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Myanmar Faces Increasing Uncertainty as Opposition to the Military Coup Grows

A protestor in Myanmar holding up the three-finger salute of opposition to military dictatorship from the film “Hunger Games” which was popularised by the democracy protests in Hong Kong and Thailand. Courtesy: CC BY-SA 4.0

By Larry Jagan
BANGKOK, Feb 8 2021 – Myanmar is in a deep political crisis. Over the past week — reminiscent of the pro-democracy demonstrations of 1988 — Myanmar’s citizens are openly and publicly challenging the country’s powerful military, whose coup earlier this month now threatens to stifle the country’s fledgling democracy.

Since the weekend, thousands of people have come out onto the streets in most of the country’s major cities in defiance of the military authorities: noisily opposing the coup and demanding that Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), which overwhelmingly won the November election, be allowed to form a civilian government.

These demonstrations of support for democracy are growing daily with thousands and thousands across Myanmar voicing their rejection of the military coup.

It is like 33 years ago when millions of students, civil servants, workers and Buddhist monks took to the streets demanding democracy. Those protests provoked the military to seize power in a coup in September that year.

Again, the future of the country’s transition to democracy has reached a critical crossroads. After weeks of tension between the military and the elected civilian government of Suu Kyi, the Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing seized power in a military coup on Feb. 1 and assumed all government powers – of the executive, judiciary and the legislature – for 12 months after which fresh elections would be held and power transferred to the winner.

Protests started with noise & via social media

People spontaneously started to demonstrate their opposition to the coup by creating a cacophony of noise – beating drums, banging, blowing trumpets and singing in unison every night at 8pm. Since then the ‘banging brigade’ has got louder and louder, as the country’s main urban centres come to a standstill and all that can be heard is the rhythmic sound of the beating of pots and pans all showing their opposition to the military and support for Suu Kyi.

“Most people in Myanmar support the ideals of democracy and want the army to withdraw from politics permanently,” Shwe Yee Myint Saw, who has joined the street protests almost every day from when they started on the weekend, told IPS.

The vast majority of those who have taken to the streets are under the age of 30. “You see the youth of this country understand what we lost in 30 years of military misrule, and we can’t afford a repeat of that.”

As in 1988, the charismatic pro-democracy icon Suu Kyi – and leader of the NLD — is at the centre of the movement. She was detained last Monday, Feb. 1, when the military launched their coup and arrested her in an early morning raid. She remains under house arrest and has been charged for possession of illegally imported radios that were used without permission – six walkie-talkie radios were found in the search of her home after she was arrested. If convicted it would bar her from contesting any future elections, including those the military have promised to hold later next year.

Most of the country’s civilian leaders were also detained in these dawn raids. This included all key politicians, regional chief ministers, government ministers, the top leadership of the governing NLD, most national and local members of parliament, and hundreds of pro-democracy and human rights activists. Many of them have been released since and effectively sent home to house arrest.

In the past week the opposition to the coup has built momentum and a concerted campaign of civil disobedience grew through the use of social media.

“We have digital power, so we’ve been using this to oppose the military junta ever since the start of the coup,” human rights activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi, who is one of the main organisers of the ‘Civil Disobedience Movement’ which has taken Myanmar by storm since the coup, told IPS. “And we must continue to use it: to seek an immediate end to this culture of coups.”

Banks reopened in Yangon, Myanmar on February 2 after closing the day before. Credit: IPS / Yangon stringer

Health workers went on strike

The social media protests quickly snowballed into a civil disobedience campaign initiated by the country’s health workers. The day after the coup, the country’s health workers galvanised public resistance to the military by refusing to work under a military government.

“It isn’t that we don’t care about our patients – we certainly do — but we can’t work under a military government again,” Dr Mya Oo, a doctor at Mandalay General Hospital who went on strike the first day, told IPS. “We all feel we must do everything we can to stop this bullying and preserve our democracy.”

Support for the opposition movement has grown enormously ever since, affecting hospitals, schools and other government offices. Although the doctors and nurses in the two main cities of Mandalay and Yangon took the lead — refusing to work and gathering outside their hospital to protest against the military coup — it quickly grew to government ministries, schools and universities throughout Myanmar.

Pictures can be seen of staff congregating together in uniform, wearing the red ribbon of protest, and defiantly holding up the three-finger salute of opposition to military dictatorship from the film “Hunger Games” – popularised in the democracy protests in Hong Kong and Thailand. There has also been a flood of resignations from government posts.

Civilians on the street

It culminated over the weekend, when the campaigners took to the streets to demonstrate their anger at the coup and its leaders. Their main grievance is the army’s seizure of power has effectively annulled the results of last November’s election which Suu Kyi and the NLD convincingly won.

“We voted for Aung San Suu Kyi and now the military are trying to steal this election from us and put us under their harsh controlling power like before,” Sandar, a young university graduate, told IPS. “We won’t stand for it: we have tasted democratic freedom and we know it’s the only way for our country to develop,” she said.

In most urban centres across the country, there are massive demonstrations of support for Suu Kyi demanding the military respect the election results. More and more civil servants are joining the movement. And now there are calls for a general strike.

“The ‘civil disobedience movement’ is a non-violent campaign – started by young doctors across the country which has inspired everyone and has grown into a mass protest involving all sectors of society,” Thinzar Shunlei Yi told IPS. 

Suu Kyi is believed to have signalled her support for the movement in messages from her house arrest in the capital Naypyidaw, according to senior party officials. Late last week the NLD central executive committee released a statement supporting the current Civil Disobedience Movement.

“In order to take back the country’s sovereignty – invested in the people — and restore democracy, all the people of Myanmar people should support this political resistance movement — in a peaceful and non-violence way,” the statement read.

So far the authorities have been powerless to stem the movement. But as the momentum grows there are increasing fears of a major confrontation between the peaceful protestors and the security forces.

 


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