News Wrap


The union health minis- try is silent on whether the Narendra Modi government plans to order in advance in India, as several other countries have done, the oral and anti Covid-19 drugs from Merk and Pfizer that dramatically reduce the risk of hospitalisations and death. The US companies have independently announced steps to make available their drugs, Merk’ molnpiravir and Pfizer’ Paxlovid, through licensed local manufacture in India. Experts say how patients in India could access them remains unclear for now. The lack of advance agreements with foreign vaccine makers had delayed the rollout of the Covid-19 inoculation drive in India.

Khurram Parvez
International condemnation has been sparked on the arrest of human rights defender Khurram Parvez, on terrorism charges in Jammu and Kashmir. Parvez was arrested on 22 November 2021 evening, by the National Investigation Agency and booked under stringent provisions of the anti-terror law UAPA, and the Indian Penal Code, that carry a maximum punishment of the death sentence. Many see the arrest as a corollary of national security adviser Ajit Doval’s description of civil society, as a “New frontier of war”. The Geneva-based World Organisation Against Torture on 23 November 2021 called for Parvez’s release. “We are deeply concerned about the high risk of torture, while in custody”, it said in a tweet. The United Nations said it was disturbed by the report of his arrest. “He is not a terrorist, he is a Human Rights Defender”, Mary Lawlor UN special Rapporteur on human rights defenders tweeted.

Maria Ressa
Maria Ressa, the first Nobel laureate from the Philippines, shared the Peace Prize with Russian investigative journalist Dmitry Muratov, a move widely seen as an intended endorsement of free speech rights, under fire world wide. Ressa’s news site, Rappler, had its licence suspended, and she has faced legal action for various reasons, motivated, supporters say, by her scrutiny of government policies, including a bloody war on drugs, launched by Philippine President Rodrigo Dutrte. “Exile is not an option” Ressa told a streamed news conference, with her legal team, adding that she felt a climate of violence and fear under Duterte’s term was easing before 2022 elections. Free on bail as she appeals against a six-year prison sentence handed down in 2021, for a libel conviction. Ressa is facing five tax evasion charges, and corporate tax case with the regulator. The Philippine government denies hounding media, and says any problems, organisations face are legal, and not political. Ressa is in Boston, on an academic visit.

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Vol. 54, No. 26, Dec 26, 2021 - Jan 1, 2022