Author: Vitto Banez

POVERTY PROJECT: Singapore’s Ugly Truth

VITTO BANEZ WRITES – Singapore is very well-off. At least that’s the perception. The skyline alone illustrates the nation’s growth.  The island country has become a hotspot for rich vacationers attracted by its fancy hotels and world-class cuisine. Looking at all that, it’s hard to believe poverty exists in a place like Singapore. Yes, it’s one of the wealthiest nations in the world, but the wealth of some comes at a high cost to others. And it is becoming increasingly difficult for poverty stricken families to live in such an expensive place. Singapore was recently ranked as the world’s sixth most expensive city to live in. With an efficient infrastructure and low taxes, one can see why the rich would run to a city with such incentives. The nation also has a strong financial center and the second largest international private banking market. Despite its reputation as an economic success story, the wealth gap is the second highest in Asia, only trumped by Hong Kong. Poverty contradicts Singapore pristine image. It’s an incredibly clean city without any sign of graffiti or even discarded gum on its pristine sidewalks.  With such a high standard of living, it is difficult for families to sustain decent living conditions. Some families live off weekly groceries from charities as well as a monthly allowance from the government.  Still the BBC reports that some Singaporeans believe that their nation’s poverty...

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AFGHANISTAN: Taliban Causes Trouble for Presidential Elections

VITTO BANEZ WRITES – With Afghan elections around the corner, it’s no surprise that the Taliban have something to say. On March 10, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Afghans should sit out the elections, because they’re “an American conspiracy”  cooked up by the U.S. for its own evil purposes. Evil or not, finding a successor to current Afghan President Hamid Karzai is indeed important to the U.S. and the future of American troops in-country. Karzai himself has shown contempt, even hatred to the U.S. and refused to sign a deal that would let its forces continue to train and work with Afghan troops.  (Ironically, that could be a big plus for Karzai’s successor. By signing such a deal he can mend fences with the U.S. and differentiate himself from the combative Karzai.) If even Karzai is thumbing his nose at the U.S., it’s perhaps not surprising that Mujahid and the Taliban think the race is fixed. It also helps explain their resistance and efforts to stop it. This isn’t the first time voting has turned ugly in Afghanistan. Other elections have been hurt by allegations of fraud. Also, surveys show people don’t especially like polling or the candidates they tend to get. There have also been assassinations of campaign workers. The upcoming election should represent a glimmer of hope for Afghanistan, but the current situation looks bleak and reflects the nation’s...

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AFGHANISTAN: U.S. Paints a Positive Picture of its Presence

VITTO BANEZ WRITES – Because of its unique, soap-box position, the media has an outsized ability to influence. But when it stops objectively calling things as it sees them, it becomes a propaganda tool for the powers that be. Recently, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) proposed paying journalists for positive photographs of the work the U.S. does in Afghanistan. It was meant to counter negative images that Afghans sometimes get of the U.S presence, and help persuade taxpayers back at home of the continued importance of the Afghan campaign. When a good-government watchdog group rightly complained the scheme amounted to thinly-veiled propaganda, USAID quickly pulled the plug. The withdrawn contract brought further fire on the agency, which critics say has, among other things, poor financial safeguards for the hundreds of millions of dollars it spends each year in Afghanistan on restoration projects. It’s clear that USAID is trying to counter the inherent negativity of fallen soldiers and possibly-wasted tax payer money. But is that its role? And should media be on the take to help spread the ‘good word’? Less happy-time messaging, please. More talk about what has and hasn’t worked in-country and when the U.S. can finally pull...

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AFGHANISTAN: Bombs Blow up People but Media Blows up Morality

VITTO BANEZ WRITES – Western Afghan religious leaders claim the media is displaying material that is un-Islamic.  The mullahs assert that said material is inflicting more harm than a suicide bomb. Farouq Hussaini, the spokesman for the council of Muslim scholars, articulated this belief in his statement that “suicide attackers take people’s lives, but the [programs] of some media outlets destroy the faith of the Afghan people.” This is seen as being more devastating than a physical attack as it takes away from national pride, ethics, and morality. The mullah takes great offense to media stories that contradict Muslim beliefs and traditions. For example, material in which women are clothed in “immodest” fashion is viewed as a deviation from traditional values. In addition, the mullah are enraged that there are more soap operas than religious broadcasts. But can these simple concerns about media coverage really be compared to the effects of a suicide bomb? For more information, please visit: Institute for War and Peace...

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AFGHANISTAN: The “Courage” of an Afghan Journalist

VITTO BANEZ WRITES – What makes a good journalist? Is it the way they pursue a lead? Or can it be the way they go with their gut? For Najiba Ayubi, it was her love for the media of her homeland. This passion led her to voice her opinion on the country’s independent media, specifically on how the Ministry of Culture managed it. She took a big risk questioning the way independent media was being run. Due to this courageous call, she became discredited for her work. Despite the setback, Ayubi still seemed content with her decision and continued on, finding it an interesting experience. She faced adversity nothing as a journalist, but as a female. Ayubi ovecame challenges such as people following her, threats from the government, accusations, charges, and so much more. Through her passion to fight for independent media and her strength to prevail against several trials, Ayubi was the perfect candidate for the Courage in Journalism Award. Ayubi exemplifies leadership, courage, and honor through her work at Killid, the Afghan Independent Media Consortium and the Freedom of Expression Initiative. She displayed strength by advocating for journalism ethics and press freedom. Najiba Ayubi is the third recipient of the award. She is one of a few female journalist in Afghanistan, but and one of the even fewer whose voice was certainly heard. For more information, please visit: International...

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ASIA MEDIA INTERNATIONAL is a student-driven publication of Loyola Marymount University's Asia Media Center - a vital part of LMU's Department of Asian and Asian American Studies (AAAS)

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