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European Convention on access to official documents enters into force

Strasbourg, Dec.1.– The Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents, the first binding international legal instrument to recognise a general right of access to official documents held by public authorities, entered into force today. The treaty, also known as the Tromsø Convention, after the city in Norway where it was opened for signature, entered into force in respect of ten Council of Europe member states - Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, Montenegro, Norway, the Republic of Moldova, Sweden and Ukraine. The convention entered into force three months after its ratification by Ukraine, the tenth state to ratify it.

The right to access to official documents held by public authorities is essential to transparency, good governance, freedom of speech and participatory democracy and it facilitates the exercise of other human rights and fundamental freedoms. Access to official documents enables citizens to form an opinion on the state of the society which they live and the governing authorities. It enables citizens’ awareness of public affairs and their informed participation in decision-making processes. It is also very important for free and independent media outlets, journalists and other media actors to have legal and guaranteed access to information and official documents in order to inform the public. The Tromsø Convention provides a framework of legal principles in respect of all these democratic goals and sets out a number of basic guarantees regarding the right to access of official documents.

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Exiled bookseller: 'If they can take Hong Kong back, the next place is Taiwan'

After fleeing Hong Kong for Taiwan, Lam Wing-kee speaks of the danger the island faces and the ordeal of his detention in China.  

Taipei, Nov29.– Lam Wing-kee leans forward in his chair, answering quickly and sharply to issue a warning to the people of his new home, Taiwan. “Be ready now,” he says.

“We should be more alert as citizens, we should get ready,” says the 64-year-old Hongkonger. “If they can take Hong Kong back, the next place, I feel, is Taiwan.”

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Ethiopian offensive on Tigray capital has begun: Regional leader

TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael says Makelle under ‘heavy bombardment’ as federal forces launch ‘final phase’ of the conflict.

The leader of rebellious forces in Tigray region says the Ethiopian government forces have begun an offensive to capturePhoto: Ethiopian soldier. License CC the regional capital, Makelle.

Debretsion Gebremichael, leader of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), told Reuters news agency in a text message on Saturday that the city was under “heavy bombardment”.

Billene Seyoum, a spokeswoman for the prime minister’s office, said the Ethiopian forces would not “bombard” civilian areas, adding “the safety of Ethiopians in Makelle and Tigray region continues as priority for the federal government.”

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China Cuts Pro-India Vietnam To Size As It Cements Ties With Cambodia, Laos Through BRI

Vietnam’s rise in the South East Asian region has been challenged by China’s growing influence as Beijing is strengthening ties with Cambodia and Laos through its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Hanoi can no longer count on Cambodia and Laos, especially in the matters of national security.

China has used its economic sway in these countries, leading to complications among neighbors to reach a consensus on territorial or maritime disputes.

For instance, Vietnam’s views on ASEAN’s Code of Conduct for negotiations in the South China Sea were not supported by both the neighbors. Laos and Cambodia’s closeness to China has even prompted some strong statements.

In October, Bilahari Kausikan, former permanent secretary of the Singaporean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, suggested that the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) might one day be forced to expel Cambodia and Laos, two small nations that have become firmly ensconced in China’s economic and strategic orbit.

The remarks were made due to the two nations’ lack of engagement in the South China Sea controversy – or in Cambodia’s case, it’s active undermining of the regional consensus on the disputes at an ASEAN meeting in 2012. Cambodia, which had historically shared good relations with Vietnam, has inched closer to China in the past two decades. Laos has also been drawn into its economic orbit.

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The US out of Syria and Afghanistan, not to mention Somalia?

How Trump can restore the chain of command: Fire the foreign-policy hacks who lied to him, and bring the troops home by Christmas.

James JeffreyNov. 23.– Looking for a coup that is succeeding? Don’t look to President Donald Trump, who is distancing himself from lawyers and apparently planning his exit. Look instead to Trump’s envoy for Syria engagement, James Jeffrey.

Jeffrey gave a valedictory exit interview to Defense One, as he was about to retire. He was astonishingly frank. And he was mostly upbeat about Trump’s foreign-policy record in the Middle East. But he was asked about Trump’s intention to withdraw all American troops from Syria, which he tweeted about and shouted down to his own national-security adviser. “What Syria withdrawal?” Jeffrey asked. “There was never a Syria withdrawal.”

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