From Our Own Correspondent Podcast
About the podcast From Our Own Correspondent Podcast
Insight, wit and analysis as BBC correspondents, journalists and writers take a closer look at the stories behind the headlines. Presented by Kate Adie and Pascale Harter.
Anti-Lockdown Protests Hit The Netherlands
History has long seen people protest against government-imposed restrictions, designed to stem pandemics. Meanwhile, opposition to vaccination is as old as vaccination itself. Yet anyone who thought rioting in the face of disease was something consigned to the distant past has had a rude awakening this week. There have been violent protests in Austria and Belgium in response to new Covid-related restrictions. However. the most bitter street battles were seen in The Netherlands, where police at one point fired live rounds. Anna Holligan was there. Ever since the coronavirus first appeared, it has caused social division: between those in favour of and against lockdown, or pro and anti-vaccination, and also between those able to carry on working and those who could not. Yet these splits came at a time when many believe the world was already increasingly polarised, and there were signs of that in Chile this week, where the first round of presidential elections were held. Centrist candidates were eliminated, and the two front runners who got through to the next round are a man who defends some aspects of the military dictatorship let by General Pinochet, and another whose critics accuse of having Communist leanings. Jane Chambers says this has happened partly because many Chilean voters seem to have their minds on the past. While Chile may be split along political lines, the split in Cyprus is geographical. Turkey invaded the island in 1974, leaving it divided between a mainly Turkish speaking part, and one where most are ethnically Greek. However, Cyprus has a third, far smaller community: Maronite Christians, whose ancestors arrived from the Middle East many centuries ago. Adelle Kalakouti grew up in one of the Maronite Christian villages, and says their future is now at risk. Plenty of autocratic leaders have attempted to hand over power to their children, but The Philippines seems to be taking this one step further; two politicians' offspring are attempting to win power on a joint ticket. Presidential elections will be held in The Philippines next year, and one man who has just announced his candidacy is Bongbong Marcos, son of the country’s former dictator, Ferdinand Marcos. Meanwhile, his running mate, standing for Vice President, is Sara Duterte, whose father, Rodrigo Duterte is The Philippines current President. Howard Johnson has been trying to understand why these family familiars remain popular. When the writer, Tishani Doshi accepted a temporary academic post in Abu Dhabi, she did not expect to end up helping refugees there. But Abu Dhabi has taken in more than eight thousand Afghans, who fled when the Taliban took over their country. One day, Tishani got a call, asking if she could lend them a hand.
The Desperation of Asylum Seekers on Poland's Border
During the Cold War, the border between NATO countries and the Soviet bloc was heavily fortified, each side fearing the other might one day roll across it in their tanks. Since then, alliances have shifted, and Poland is now firmly within the western military ambit. But that means it is also on the front line in what some call a new Cold War, facing Belarus, a staunch ally of Russia. And these days, Poland is not worrying about tanks crossing any time soon, but people: the asylum seekers who were mustered on the Belarus side. As Nick Beak explains, most seemed desperate to cross over. There have been several thousand attempts by asylum seekers to cross into Poland from Belarus. Compare that figure to the situation in Turkey, which now plays host to four million people who fled there, most of them escaping the civil war in neighbouring Syria. Turkey and its President won international praise for accepting these new arrivals, and devoted considerable resources to providing them with food and housing. However, it seems the mood is changing. Ayla Jean Yackley says Turks are now ever less willing to see money spent on helping refugees, when their country’s own economy is in poor shape. The United States plays host to a wide variety of wild animals, such as grizzly bears, alligators and rattle snakes. It was once also home to millions of wild turkeys, a bird seen almost as a symbol of the US, as it is eaten each year for the Thanksgiving Festival. The wild turkey population had declined in recent decades, but a concerted conservation effort has restored some of this lost population. However, Alice Hutton says the birds are now causing havoc in some American cities. Libya might soon be ruled over by President Gadhafi - not that the late Colonel Gadhafi has been restored to life, nor did it turn out that his death was faked. But Libya is holding presidential elections next month, and among the candidates are one Saif Al Islam Gadhafi, Muammar Gadhafi’s son. He was one of his father’s more strident supporters, and the fact that he is being taken seriously says much about Libya today, according to Orla Guerin. The coronavirus outbreak and its lockdowns have meant isolation for many people, but few have been affected like sailors in the Royal Navy. They are accustomed to being cut off, being away at sea for long periods. However, with many countries closed to visitors, sailors have no longer been able even to enjoy shore leave the way they did previously, as Hannah King found when she visited one of Britain’s newest aircraft carriers.
The Battle for Ethiopia
Kate Adie presents reporters' despatches from Ethiopia, the Cop26 climate summit, Switzerland, Georgia and Brazil. The conflict in Ethiopia has left the country's northern Tigray region largely cut off, with millions facing starvation. Among the many combatants now on manoeuvres are the “Oromo Liberation Army” – the Oromo being a people who live mostly in the centre and south of the country. Catherine Byaruhanga was given a rare invitation to meet them. Ethiopia is one of the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change - the subject of the Cop26 summit in Glasgow. Among those attending were the BBC’s David Shukman, a veteran of ten previous Cops, and someone who has watched at close hand the long battle to see the dangers of climate change. The ski industry is already preparing for warmer temperatures, with predictions that the snow at many resorts will regularly melt, or never form in the first place. So what can these resorts do to stay in business? Simon Mills reports from Switzerland. After former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was smuggled back into the country, and then chucked in prison, he went on a hunger strike leading to protests in the street. What exactly is happening is still unclear, but then Rayhan Demytrie says that when it comes to Saakashvili, it has always been hard to separate myth from reality. The pandemic meant that Sao Paulo's bars and restaurants were forced to shut – and yet there was one kind of food outlet which was permitted to say open, deemed an essential part of Brazilian life. They are called lanchonetes, local eateries with a tradition going back more than a hundred years. Andrew Downie explains why he is a lanchonete fan.
A Cup of Tea with the Taliban Neighbours
The news from Afghanistan is ever more dire. Twenty three million people are at risk of starvation, according to the World Food Programme, a fate which gets ever nearer as winter approaches. For international donors and aid agencies, this presents an acute dilemma: whether or not to work with the Afghan authorities to try to solve this crisis. To do so might require handing over food and other supplies to the Taliban government, a regime which no country even recognises. That is because nobody is quite sure just what kind of rulers the Taliban will be. Since they took over in August, there have been reports of brutality, which in some cases meant the cold-blooded murder of people who were seen as Taliban opponents. Yet there have not been the kind of mass atrocities which many feared. Visiting Kabul, Andrew North has found a variety of attitudes among the Taliban members he’s come across, and they include his next door neighbours. They held a mass funeral in Sierra Leone, after a hundred and fifteen people were killed in a fuel tanker explosion. It happened in the West African country’s capital, Freetown, some of the victims dying because they had rushed towards the site of the accident, hoping to gather up some of the petrol which had spilled out. This latest disaster comes just months after a fire destroyed thousands of homes in one of the city’s slums. And many of this week’s victims were buried in the same cemetery as those who died in a mudslide; that disaster killed around a thousand people. But then Sierra Leone is a country which in recent times has also experienced an Ebola outbreak, and before that, civil war. Walking round Freetown this week, Lucinda Rouse found people shocked and upset, but also sometimes resigned to the misfortune so frequently visited upon them. We were hoping to bring you a report from Nicaragua, where they have been holding an election. However, our Correspondent, Will Grant was not allowed into the country, turned back at the border. But that in itself tells you plenty about the way politics works in Nicaragua these days he says. It is a country where journalists and other commentators are routinely locked up for what they write, and where people protesting against the government have been shot in the streets. Still, Will Grant did at least try to get in, knowing the chances were slim. People often have a love-hate relationship with tourists. They may well bring plenty of money into an economy, and jobs for those who need them. And yet the disruption caused by a mass of visitors is not always welcome. Of course, many tourist spots have had a terrible time under Covid, with lockdown preventing anyone from coming to visit. Some resorts have been positively praying for a return to the days when they could play host to hordes of holiday-makers. Others though have been surprised to find a surge in new arrivals, like residents on the Greek island of Tinos, where Antonia Quirke was among those paying a visit.
Bosnia: New Tensions From An Old Conflict
Bosnia was the site of Europe's worst conflict Europe since the Second World War ended. Fighting there in the 1990s ended up killing around a hundred thousand people. Bosnian Serbs were pitted against Croats, and Muslim so-called Bosniaks. This was an old-fashioned battle for territory, and it only ended when a compromise was reached – that Bosnia would remain one country, but with two regions each having a certain degree of autonomy. There would be one, predominantly Serb region, and another joint Croat and Muslim. This was always a fragile solution, a fudge, some said, to ease the country away from bloodshed. But now, bits of that peace deal are beginning to look rather frayed, and some have even spoken of a return to fighting. While few predict war any time soon, Guy Delauney say this is still highly dangerous talk. You can understand why Poles are just a little sensitive about being told what to do by outsiders. Their country has suffered repeated invasion and occupation, and at times, has vanished off the map altogether. There were wild celebrations when Poland was accepted for membership of the European Union back in 2003. This was seen first of all as a mark of respectability, recognition that it had become a modern, free market democracy. But many Poles believed membership of the EU also took the country another step further away from the embrace of Russia to the east, while leaving it closer knit with friendly countries to the west. Today, EU membership remains popular in Poland, but not so the EU itself. The Polish government has promised to defy instructions emanating from Brussels, and indeed is currently facing a fine of one million Euros a day imposed by the European Court of Justice, for refusing to abide by previous rulings. Adam Easton has been looking at what is one of Europe’s most intense love-hate relationships. The COP summit on climate change chalked up an achievement this week. Delegates in Glasgow signed an agreement to stop deforestation by 2030, promising they would make attempts to reverse it. This follows decades in which vast swathes of forest have been chopped down, to provide wood, and to open up tracts land for growing crops on, often to feed animals which are then raised to provide meat. But the axe and the chainsaw are not the only threat which trees face. Climate change is already altering the conditions in which they grow, and sometimes with terrible consequences for individual trees and indeed, for the very landscape in which they flourish, as Jenny Hill discovered in Germany. The effects of climate change may be slow and initially barely visible, but sometimes they are all too clear. This summer just past saw record temperatures in parts of Europe, and out of control fires as a consequence. Trees in Greece were burned to a cinder, as one part of the country after another succumbed to the flames. Bethany Bell reported on those fires, and now she has been back to watch people picking up the pieces after this devastation, and also talking to those trying to figure out how to stop it happening again. The Europe of today is very much shaped by its experience of war and political upheaval. Bosnia’s conflict was born out of the collapse of Yugoslavia, a nation which itself was created out of the ashes of World War One. The EU was formed as an attempt to ensure that such a Europe-wide conflict would never happen again, and that democracy would become the rule. Even the natural landscape was shaped in part by war, with the need for food security high in people’s minds. And yet it remains an open question whether the lessons of this turbulent past have really been learned. A few thousand miles away from his original home in Vienna, Hilary Andersson spoke to a man who witnessed perhaps the worst of Europe’s modern history. Lying in hospital, just days from death, he shared his memories of the Nazis, and his fear that the value and fragility of democracy risks being forgotten.
Can the world reach a deal?
All eyes are on the COP summit on climate change, its delegates charged with the task of limiting CO2 emissions for decades to come. The mood music beforehand has not been positive, but then this summit represents one of the greatest challenges of all times in terms of diplomacy: persuading many countries to take a short-term economic hit, in return for the long term, greater good of the planet. This would be a tough call at any time, but the times now seem particularly challenging for reaching agreement, according to James Landale. He was at the G20 summit of wealthy nations which has just finished in Rome, a prelude to the COP event. He says even there, it was clear that multilateral cooperation is just not in vogue at the moment. India has a reputation as a country where families of the rich and famous are particularly protected from misfortune, not having to play by the same rules as lesser mortals. However, it seems that now depends on what kind of fame and wealth you are related to. This has been brought to the fore by two recent criminal cases. On the one hand, there is the son of a Bollywood film star, caught up in allegations of drug possession. On the other hand is the story of a government minister's son. His car apparently ploughed into a group of protestors, killing eight. It is what happened next that has made these cases front page news in India. The actor’s son was locked up straight away, despite his apparently plausible protestations of innocence. Meanwhile it took almost a week for the Minister’s son even to be arrested. Geeta Pandey has been following the twists and turns of this murky story. The rich and famous of Europe also have their privileges, not least the expensive spots they go to on holiday. Among these is Monte Carlo, popular particularly with those who not only have plenty of cash, but also a yacht that needs berthing. The capital city of tiny little Monaco has always pulled in such big-wigs, but it seems these visitors are now very much a reason that other visitors come. Because while some choose safaris for a holiday, to see wild animals, in Monaco, it’s the wealthy people and their lifestyles which other people come to see, says Felicity Hannah. International summits may be tough going for negotiators, as we suggested above, but they do at least give world leaders a brief break from their troubles back home. Prime Ministers and Presidents get to strut their stuff on the world stage, talking about major issues like climate change. Just for a few days, they don’t have to think so much about how to run public services, for example, or whether voters will approve of new regulations they’ve introduced to control playground safety in nursery schools. Instead, it is the big stuff they can focus on. And yet, some of those who went to Glasgow will have found it hard to forget the home front. Take the US President, Joseph Biden. Less than a year after being elected, his poll ratings are not good . This week his Democratic Party lost a crucial Governor’s election in Virginia, a vote which many commentators believe expressed popular disaffection with the President and his record. Anthony Zurcher has been travelling with Joseph Biden this past week, and has also been talking to some of his heartland electorate back home. It is not easy finding places for astronauts to train. Some of the original Apollo team who went to the moon practised under-water, to get a taste of weightlessness. They also went to the Arizona desert, to experience a barren landscape that would be similar to the moon’s. What you might not expect is to find a team of trainee space adventurers coming to a small, medieval town in southern Germany. Certainly this was not the kind of company Andrew Eames expected to be keeping.
Children for sale: Afghanistan's desperate and impoverished
There have been reports from Afghanistan of people so desperate for foo they have been selling their own children to raise the money they need. Our correspondent Yogita Lemaye was initially sceptical mood as she investigated whether locals really were trading their sons and daughters for cash - and what would then happen to them. For many years, Andrew Roy has been dispatching BBC correspondents around the world, most recently in his role as head of foreign newsgathering. He is about to leave the BBC, and warns that he is doing so at a time when there is more effort than ever being made to stop journalists doing their jobs. This might be military dictators wielding the threat of imprisonment, or democratically-elected governments using more subtle means of obstruction. World leaders are gathering for a two week summit in Glasgow, with an aim no less ambitious than saving the planet from the harmful effects of climate change. One problem which climate change is predicted to cause is an increase in flooding; warmer air can hold more water, which will eventually fall as heavier rain. That is exactly what has just happened in the South Indian state of Kerala. Raijini Vaidyanathan has seen the destruction there. Should we still be burning witches? There are also plenty of light-hearted celebrations where effigies of witches are burned, or simply paraded as figures of fun. Some feel this trivialises a horrific part of Europe’s history. Germany was at one point the European witch-finder capital. And it is there that Sally Howard has regularly travelled at Halloween, to watch celebrations which have become highly contentious. On Broadway in New York, theatres have been closed for more than a year, and although they are starting to open again, they are doing so with strict, covid-related regulations in place. The writer John O’Farrell could have had no idea that all this was coming, when he was asked several years ago, to script a stage musical version of the film Mrs Doubtfire. Now the production has finally had its opening night, but it was a long road to get there.
Sudan's coup: democracy delayed again
Sudan has this week experienced yet another military coup, with generals seizing power, locking up elected officials and declaring a state of emergency. They insist this was all done in order to help the country move towards democracy; they have promised elections, though not until 2023. It is only two years since a popular uprising overthrew Sudan’s long-term autocratic leader, Omar Al-Bashir, and some hoped this would finally usher in an era of democratic rule. But as Andrew Harding explains, these hopes now seem remote. A long way southwards from Sudan, on the continent's Atlantic tip, there is a country where in some ways, democracy is thriving. South Africa has lively political debate, a diverse media scene, and elections which are broadly seen as free and fair. The country is about to hold another round of local council elections next week, and this was precisely what many people fought, and indeed died for in South Africa. Under the previous, apartheid system, only white people could vote for the country’s councils and parliament, while the majority had no say. Among those who campaigned against apartheid was the British writer, Gregory Salter, who is now living in South Africa, and married to a wife from Natal, who also played a role in that struggle. So it came as quite a shock to Greg and his wife, when they found that the idea of voting just wasn’t very important…for their own son. As Britain gets stuck into autumn, there is a new chill in the air. Meanwhile, on the Spanish island of Ibiza right now, temperatures are in the twenties - a little cloudy at times, but with plenty of sunshine along the way. Good weather is one of the many things which have long attracted tourists to Ibiza, its popularity going stratospheric from the late 1980s onwards. Of course, Ibiza, like other tourist destinations, has been badly hit by Covid and the consequent curbs on travel, with hotels sat empty and restaurants deserted. People are now returning to the island for holidays, but as Kate Spicer found, lockdown has exposed what were always huge social-divisions – divisions which have left some people impoverished. Covid has hit every aspect of people’s lives: in Paraguay, and some other Latin American countries, there is a long tradition of passing round a special communal cup of the local tea, called “mate,” which is usually drunk from through a shared straw. However, in these days of infection aversity, most tend to drink mate from their own cup. That said, it remains hugely popular, and mate also continues to be an important crop for many farmers. In Paraguay though, mate growers increasingly find themselves competing for land with large-scale agricultural companies. These see more profit to be made from growing soy, which they can then sell as animal feed. William Costa has been to meet some of the mate farmers feeling the pressure. The newly-cold weather mentioned above will have seen many people digging out jumpers from the back of drawers, and perhaps pulling coats from hangers which have not moved for the last few months. This is a regular, annual, albeit rather banal aspect of the seasons changing. Not so in Italy, where the swapping round of one’s wardrobe has all the qualities of a ritual: out with spring and summer clothes, in with those for autumn and winter, and with plenty of traditional practices to mark the occasion. Dany Mitzman has lived in Italy for more than two decades, so you might think she’d be used to these customs. Yet once again this year, she has been left scratching her head at the sight of so much ceremony for the simple matter of switching thongs for thermals.
About the podcast From Our Own Correspondent Podcast
Insight, wit and analysis as BBC correspondents, journalists and writers take a closer look at the stories behind the headlines. Presented by Kate Adie and Pascale Harter.