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Australian journalist held in harsh conditions awaiting fate of Beijing trial

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An Australian journalist is being accused of illegally supplying state secrets overseas and could face life in jail if convicted

A Beijing court is holding a trial, but behind closed doors for former TV anchor Cheng Lei.

Her family and friends are advocating for the Chinese-born Australian, who was working for the Chinese state media outlet CGTN prior to her detention in August 2020.

Human Rights Watch, Sophie Richardson, says Cheng has been accused of violating China’s State Secret Laws which are “notoriously problematic” partly because the contents of those laws are themselves state secrets.

“It’s incredibly hard to know what somebody has even been charged with to the extent that while there are fair trial rights, at least on paper in China, almost all of those are suspended in cases like these,” she says.

“And so it really leaves a defendant with almost no ability to successfully defend themselves in a court of law.”

Concerns for Cheng’s wellbeing

Richardson says while Cheng has had contact with consular officials, she is highly concerned with her well being in a Chinese prison.

“They are synonymous with psychological torment, physical ill treatment and especially in a case like this, where you can’t demand or reasonably expect to regularly be able to see a lawyer of your choice or have contact with your family members,” she says.

In a statement from the Human Rights Watch regarding Cheng Lei’s appearance in court, HRW says the Chinese government’s arbitrary detention of Australian journalist Cheng Lei has been absolutely chilling.

“For 19 months, she has been held in harsh conditions on vague “national security” and “espionage” charges—often used to criminalize free speech.  With unpredictable access to consular officials or lawyers of her choice, she is at risk ill-treatment.”

According to the China Justice Observer, in 2019 the conviction rate was 99.965 percent. Even though the statistics don’t fall in Lei’s favour, Richardson is still hoping for a positive outcome.

“Hopefully the Australian authorities will be able to make sufficiently clear to Chinese authorities, what price they will impose if she’s given a harsh sentence,” she says.

What does the Australian government want?

“We just don’t know, but we do know that people across China get prosecuted simply for having views that may be critical of the government or having embarrassed officials in certain ways,” she says.

How can the Australian government help?

Sophie Richardson says Australian authorities should push more broadly for fair trial rights and accountability.

“Whether that is deepening concerns around trade or other kinds of exchanges, whether it’s about limiting certain kinds of diplomatic contact,” she says.

“It’s about pushing broadly, in a venue like the United Nations Human Rights Council for investigations into issues ranging from COVID-19 to crimes against humanity targeting Wiegers,”

High-profile Australian journalist Cheng Lei has been detained in China.

Where does this leave the future of journalism in China?

After Cheng was detained many Australian journalists fled China, leaving the Australian media with hardly any journalists in the country for the first time in 50 years.

Richardson says the extent to which Chinese authorities are cutting people off from the rest of the world is “frightening”.

“Now more than ever, we need to understand what’s going on domestically. Hopefully, they recognise that that’s detrimental to their own interests, and to people across China and they reverse course,” she says.

Cheng was a “trusted person” to “voice opinions” in China according to people who worked with her.

The family has released a statement to Reuters, saying her children and elderly parents “miss her immensely and sincerely hope to reunite with her as soon as possible”

Savannah Pocock contributed to this report.

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Prince Harry and UK newspaper publisher agree pause of libel case

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Prince Harry and one of Britain’s biggest media publishers have agreed a temporary pause in his libel claim to try to settle the case.

The Duke of Sussex sued the publisher in February over an article in the Mail on Sunday newspaper which alleged he tried to keep secret details of his legal fight with Britain’s interior ministry to reinstate his police protection.

Harry says the Mail on Sunday published an “unremittingly negative” article about his ongoing case against the Home Office.

The High Court ruled it was defamatory in July.

Associated Newspapers, however, argues that the article contains “an expression of opinion” about Harry’s public statements on his legal case over police protection and is defending the libel lawsuit.

The case returned to court for a preliminary hearing on Tuesday at which Harry’s lawyer Jane Phillips said the parties have agreed to put the case on hold until mid-January in order to try and negotiate a settlement “if that is indeed possible”.

Further information

Associated Newspapers applied for Harry to provide further information about a meeting at the royal Sandringham estate in January 2020, when he says he made an offer to pay for or contribute to police protection.

Judge Barbara Fontaine ruled that Harry’s lawyers should provide “clarification” about the offer he says he made, which she added would “assist the parties … in the attempts about [a] settlement, which I hope are successful”.

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Who will win Time Magazine’s person of 2022?

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It’s that time of year again when Time Magazine awards its person of the year, so here’s the shortlist so far

Time Magazine is looking for who dominated headlines and conversations in 2022. Ahead of the reveal this week, it has shortlisted a few candidates.

Elon Musk makes the cut

Top pick, is Elon Musk once again. The billionaire dominating headlines for his $44 billion takeover of Twitter.

He is no stranger to controversy, with many critics slamming his changes to the social media giant.

FILE PHOTO: SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk gestures during a conversation with legendary game designer Todd Howard (not pictured) at the E3 gaming convention in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 13, 2019.

Xi Jinping

Next, is Xi Jinping as he secured himself a third term as President of China. He also stole the global spotlight for his draconian zero-covid strategy, as thousands call for his resignation.

Xi has also been the centre of geopolitical tensions and trade with the United States and Australia.

Plus, China’s dominance over Taiwan has cause a global stir.

Chinese President Xi Jinping waves after his speech as the new Politburo Standing Committee members meet the media following the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China October 23, 2022. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

U.S. Supreme Court

Also named is the U.S. Supreme court for overturning the nearly 50-year-old Roe v. Wade abortion law.

The landmark ruling overturned the law that recognised a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion and legalised it nationwide.

It sparked global protests with thousands of women begging for the right to decide what they do with their own bodies.

Protestors react outside the U.S. Supreme Court to the leak of a draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito preparing for a majority of the court to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision later this year, in Washington, U.S., May 2, 2022. REUTERS/Moira Warburton

Volodymyr Zelensky

No surprise, Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky made the cut. The comedian turned President is leading his country through war.

During 2022, Zelensky has given unwavering strength for Ukraine. He has forced world leaders to support the war-torn nation, in the face of Russian aggression.

He has been a pillar of hope, endurance and resilience.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy gestures during his annual news conference at the Antonov aircraft plant in Kyiv, Ukraine May 20, 2021. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Iran protestors

Protestors in Iran have also been named, as the country continues to stand up against the strict Islamic Republic.

The uprising is one of the largest in the nations history, with the world unable to turn a blind eye.

Women have been burning their hijabs and cutting their hair, forcing the Parliament to review the mandatory hijab law.

FILE – Iranians who live in Brazil protest against the death of Iranian woman Mahsa Amini, who died in Iran while in police custody, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Friday, Sept. 23, 2022. As anti-government protests roil cities and towns in Iran for a fourth week, sparked by the death of a 22-year-old woman detained by Iran’s morality police, tens of thousands of Iranians living abroad have marched on the streets of Europe, North America and beyond in support of what many believe to be a watershed moment for their home country. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)

The magazine also made mention of Ron DeSantis, Gun safety advocates and Liz Cheney.

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Critics slam Prince Harry and Meghan Markle following Netflix trailer

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A photo used in Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s new Netflix documentary has critics going wild

A photo used in the Netflix trailer of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle has been deemed ‘fake’ by some.

In the trailer for the famous couple’s documentary, it shows them being hounded by the press.

Critics have suggested the pair used a fake image, portraying the paparazzi in a negative light.

But The Sun reports the shot was actually taken from the premiere of a Harry Potter film.

If this is true, it means the shot was actually filmed years before the pair event met.

Some royal experts believe Netflix have been careless in the process. The pair are yet to comment on the claims.

The documentary is set to air on December 8, 2022.

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