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From Our Own Correspondent

From Our Own Correspondent

Podcast From Our Own Correspondent
Podcast From Our Own Correspondent

From Our Own Correspondent


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  • Searching for Mexico's Drug War Disappeared
    The drug-related violence in Mexico is sometimes described as being “like a war.” Certainly the death toll justifies calling it that, with three hundred thousand people killed in the past fifteen years, many of them innocent civilians. About a hundred thousand have simply disappeared, presumed dead, and with their families left to search for them. Will Grant travelled to the northern state of Sonora, and joined locals digging in the ground, both hopeful - and fearful - of what they might find. The long-running civil war in Syria has forced half the country to leave their homes: around six and a half million are internally displaced within Syria, and another six and a half million have fled abroad. Most of those who reached Europe have gone to Germany, many traumatised, having survived bombings, or lost family members in the fighting – some have been tortured. You might expect these people would form tight-knit communities, as victims of similar harsh experiences looking out for each other. However, when Michael Ertl spoke to Syrian refugees in Berlin he found a community divided by mistrust. The streets in Kazakhstan's cities are quiet now, and the Russian soldiers have gone home; the country is returning to some semblance of normality, after anti-government protests which left at least two hundred people dead. However, the country’s Defence Minister has been sacked for failing to quell the protests when they started, and the head of Kazakhstan’s intelligence agency, the KNB, has been arrested for treason. Meanwhile, Abdujalil Abdurasulov says, thousands of protestors remain in detention, with allegations they have been tortured. Here’ a puzzle: what cost nearly a billion pounds, has not been finished, and will not do what it was designed for any time soon? The answer is: a new road in Montenegro. It was supposed to link the country’s main port to Montenegro’s neighbour, Serbia, encouraging valuable cargo to the country. However, the project is already two year’s late, and so far, this road to the sea does not actually reach the sea, but stops way short. Chinese money is involved, along with Montenegrin politicians past and present, and some allege corruption behind what Linda Pressly says is fast becoming another Balkan scandal. If it is true that cats have nine lives, then Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu must be running them a close second. A former BBC journalist, Mohamed has been caught up in no fewer than five suicide attacks, all in his home country, Somalia. Number five came last Sunday; he survived, but another suicide attack that same day killed at least eight people – just another weekend in a country torn apart by violence for the past three decades. So what makes someone like Mohamed continue to do work which places them directly in harm’s way? Mary Harper has known him for many years, and even she struggles to understand how he keeps going.
  • Serbia and Djokovic: More Than a Matter of Tennis
    When Novak Djokovic landed in Melbourne, few could have imagined that his impending encounters on the tennis court would be upstaged by a legal battle, one which then prompted a row between his country and Australia. After immigration officials held the Serb player in a hotel, Djokovic’s father said his son was being “crucified”. Then Serbia’s Foreign Ministry claimed that the player had been deliberately lured to Australia in order to humiliate him, as part of a “political game.” Guy Delauney explains that the affair has touched a raw nerve in Serbia, with an importance way beyond the tennis court. While the war of words was going on between Serbia and Australia, the government of Cameroon was trying to keep everyone’s attention focused on sport, and not on politics. The country is hosting the Africa-wide football tournament, the Africa Cup of Nations, a chance for the country to shine on the international stage. Like any contest, the Cup provides an opportunity for all countries to unite and rally behind their national team. However, there is a distinct shortage of unity among some people of this West African nation. Cameroon has suffered a long-running separatist insurgency in the English-speaking part of the country, and that was where James Copnall went to watch one of the games. You might think Ukraine was used to conflict; it suffered some of the worst casualties of the Second World War, and previously lost millions to murder and starvation, as Stalin imposed communist rule on a population which often resisted it. Today, around a hundred thousand Russian troops are massed on the Ukrainian border, and when Zeinab Badawi visited the capital Kiev, she found a very different mood to what she experienced on previous trips. What have sectarian murders in Northern Ireland got in common with the dawn of democracy in Czechoslovakia, and the start of negotiations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions? The answer is that all of them were reported on by Mary Hockaday, whose career of more than three decades at the BBC has just come to an end. Her departure has left her reflecting on time, and how the world changes with it. The housing market has been rather perky this past year, so it might be a good time to sell your home, but not if you’re a princess, you don’t actually want to move out, and the property in question is a Seventeenth Century palace. Such though is the fate of one of Rome’s more unusual inhabitants, living in one of the city’s more distinctive buildings. The Villa Aurora will go under the auctioneer’s hammer next week, and is valued at more than four hundred million pounds. David Willey has been a regular visitor
  • Uncovering China's Internet Trolls
    Plenty of journalists have had the experience of being “trolled” – attacked on social media for what they have written or said, often in terms which can be both offensive and sometimes frightening. Tessa Wong was trolled after reporting on China, but rather than simply accepting the abuse, she tried to find out why so many people had launched these attacks. What she found was that some of them were not the spontaneous outbursts of outraged citizens which they might have appeared. Rather it seems that key social media political influencers are being encouraged in their work by the Chinese authorities. It should have been a fairly straight-forward task for our reporter in the Seychelles, Patrick Muirhead. A financial scandal has hit the island nation, and various high profile people have been accused of taking money intended for its citizens. Patrick was in court to cover the proceedings, and was also offered the chance to interview the Seychelles’ President about the affair. However, this is a small country, and he was on first name terms with both the President, and with some of those in the dock. He admits, it was quite a challenge to report on the story with detachment. 2022 has started with some speculating that this could be the year in which Covid is beaten – not that the virus will disappear completely, but that it might become endemic, and certainly not killing people on anything like the scale seen so far. Yet even if by some miracle the Coronavirus were to vanish altogether, the effects of these past two years will be with us for a long time. In Peru, for example, tens of thousands of children have lost parents to Covid, and this in a country which already suffers from widespread poverty. As Jane Chambers explains, the death of a family breadwinner can leave children facing terrible hardship, along with the grief. Meeting a rebel leader can be difficult at the best of times, but particularly so if that leader is under arrest. Joshua Craze, was on the trail of General Simon Gatwich, from one of the factions which has been fighting in South Sudan. The country broke away from Sudan following a long battle for independence, but then itself split into different factions. Although a peace agreement has been reached, it’s considered a fragile one. General Gatwich headed north, to Sudan itself, so Joshua Craze tried to find out what exactly he was up to there. History has seen many symbolic acts of resistance: banging saucepans, for example, was an expression of rebellion in revolutionary France, and was more recently taken up by protestors in Latin America. Pro-democracy campaigners in Thailand and Myanmar, meanwhile, have taken to given a three finger salute, taken from the film, The Hunger Games. But there is another historical act of rebellion which might have passed you by: eating cake. That is what people in Denmark did for more than a century, as Amy Guttman explains.
  • 2022: A Year of Recovery?
    What are you hoping for in the twelve months ahead? What might you be fearing? These are questions which we often ask ourselves at this time of year, and yet it is hard to imagine a year when they have felt quite so pressing. In this special, New Year’s Day edition of From Our Own Correspondent, we hear about sentiment both optimistic and pessimistic, and about the efforts people are making to rebuild after a year of loss. Plus there is a look at why many people seem to be optimistic, whatever the challenges ahead. 2021 saw terrible, weather-related destruction, which many blamed on climate change. In California, more than eight thousand major fires broke out, their number and intensity a marked increase on what is normally seen there. Justin Rowlatt witnessed the resulting devastation, but says that amidst the burned out ruins, people were still holding out hope of recovery and reconstruction. There was plenty of destruction in 2021 that did not come from nature, war continuing to take its toll in many parts of the world. Ethiopia and Yemen were perhaps the worst examples, but there were also small-scale conflicts, like the insurgency in Myanmar. Then there were the conflicts which never really went away, like that between Israel and the Palestinians. An exchange of rocket fire with Gaza back in May, along with Israeli airstrikes, left more than two hundred dead, the overwhelming majority on the Palestinian side. When Tom Bateman went to Gaza, he met a woman trying to restart her life as a sculptor. The Coronavirus has been described as offering a lesson in humility, a challenge to our belief in humanity’s power to control and manage the world around us. This tiny, sub-microscopic string of rogue DNA, has led to death on a scale most will not have experienced in their lifetime. At the same time though, vaccines and anti-viral drugs have been developed in response to Covid, which use new technologies that promise cures for other diseases in future. Rajini Vaidyanathan saw some of the worst of Covid, reporting from India where hundreds of thousands died, perhaps more than a million. But while off duty recently, she found herself struck by the effects of one individual death, in a place very familiar to her. People often talk about climate change in terms of future trouble ahead: rising sea levels, and crops no longer able to thrive. In the Pacific island nation of Fiji, whole villages have already had to be evacuated, because of current weather conditions, and what that weather is expected to do in the years ahead. Many Fijians traditionally have a strong attachment to the land they live on, so moving from their homes presents a challenge that goes way beyond mere inconvenience. When Megha Mohan visited, she found local people trying hard to retain a sense of connection to their original homes. Despite Covid, climate change, and all the other challenges which humanity faces, many remain optimistic that normal life can continue or be restored, or perhaps that something new, and better can emerge from the ashes of the old. In fact, according to Marnie Chesterton, most people are predisposed to have an optimistic outlook, and to believe there are solutions to the challenges we face.
  • Turkey's Cost of Living CrisisTurkey's Cost of Living Crisis
    What is it like to spend years saving up your money, and then watch as its value rapidly declines? Or to have a pension which no longer pays for even your basic needs? Inflation in Turkey is soaring, with some estimates putting the annual rate at fifty percent. The Covid pandemic has meant that prices are rising around the world, but Turkey's particularly high figure has led some to blame the unorthodox economic policies of the country’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Ayla Jean Yackley visited an Istanbul market to hear more. When our correspondent in Colombia contracted Covid, he assumed he would get the medical treatment he needed; after all, he did have health insurance. However, that was not how it turned out, and in the process, Matthew Charles got a first-hand picture of how things work in the Colombian healthcare system: who gets the help they need, and why it is they who get it. Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, has a problem with street prostitution, in the sense that prostitutes and clients sometimes have sex actually in the street, or else they end up going back to the client's homes, where the women may not be safe. As a way of tackling this, the city’s sex workers are now being offered a new place to see their clients: in the back of a van. Linda Pressly was invited to see how this works. Conspiracy theorists are hard to argue with, as any fact offered to challenge their world view can be dismissed as a lie of the mainstream media. So when Stephanie Hegarty travelled to the US to meet adherents of the “QAnon” theory, she did not expect to change their minds. These are people who believe there is an international, underground sex ring, linked to senior world leaders with a secret fondness for worshipping the devil. However, she was surprised at the details of QAnon beliefs, and the tenacity with which supporters cling to them. We are all probably aware of the lasting effect that children’s books can have. Stories discovered in our early years may stay with us for the rest of our lives, so too the pictures and plots. Our Paris Correspondent, Hugh Schofield has long held a candle for Caroline, the bold little girl who featured in a long-running series of French children's books dating back to the 1950s. So it was a great surprise when he had the chance to actually meet her.

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