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US President imposes stricter sanctions on Iran's metal industry; Singapore passes new bill to fight fake news – Current Affairs

The US President has now imposed sanctions on Iran's top three exports -oil, petrochemicals and metals.

May 9, 2019 11:47 IST
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Story 1- Trump imposes harsher sanctions on Iran’s iron, steel, copper and aluminium industry

The President of the United States, Donald Trump on May 8, 2019 imposed harsher sanctions on the iron, copper, steel and aluminium industry of Iran. The move is aimed at stopping Iran from pursuing its nuclear interests and acquiring nuclear weapon and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The decision comes a year after President Trump decided to pull the United States out of the 2015 nuclear deal, calling it fatally flawed and one-sided and re-imposed economic sanctions against the nation.

Why did the US exit the nuclear deal?

The Trump administration withdrew from the nuclear deal stating that it had failed to protect American national security interests and enabled Tehran's malign behaviour.

Trump called the deal defective at its core and said that he feared that it will allow the Iranian regime to accumulate nuclear weapons. He stated that the deal allowed the Iranian regime to preserve its nuclear infrastructure, keep enriching uranium and continue research and development.

He also called the mechanisms for inspections and verification as incomplete.

US Sanctions on Iran

Immediately after announcing US withdrawal from the nuclear deal, the Trump administration stated that it would re-impose sanctions on Iran that were suspended under the deal but will allow grace periods for businesses to gradually slow down activity.

The harsh US sanctions were announced against more than 700 individuals, entities, aircraft and vessels, covering Iran's banking and energy sectors. Under the sanctions, foreign businesses and banks doing business with Iran were forced to exit such arrangements or go against the United States.

The US also reinstated penalties for countries and companies in Europe, Asia and other continents that do not halt Iranian oil imports.

However, it temporarily exempted eight countries, India, China, Japan, Italy, Greece, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey, from the US sanctions for buying Iranian oil, as they showed a significant reduction in oil import from the nation.

While three of the eight nations-Italy, Greece and Taiwan- stopped importing oil from Iran, the sanction waivers for the other five ended on May 2, 2019 and the US refused to grant them any grace period to comply with the decision.

With the current decision, the US President has now imposed sanctions on Iran's top three exports -oil, petrochemicals and metals.

Why have the sanctions been imposed?

According to the Trump administration, the decision to impose tougher sanctions on Iran was fuelled by the nation’s continuous effort to engage in destructive and destabilising activities.

The White House claims that the Iranian regime continues to develop its ballistic missile capabilities and support terrorism.

The executive order, hence, aims to take steps to deny Iran the revenue derived from the export of its copper, iron, steel and aluminium products that it may use to provide funding and support for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorist groups and networks, campaigns of regional aggression and military expansion.

Background

The harsher US sanctions come a day after Iran announced its decision to pull out from some parts of the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran announced the suspension of two key commitments, first being the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that Iran was adhering to, which includes the sale of surplus enriched uranium and heavy water.

The regime also gave the European Union, Russia and China 60 days to implement their financial and oil commitments to the deal, upon the failure of which, Iran would resume production of higher-enriched uranium, which is currently capped.

Iran’s decision to pull out of some parts of the deal followed increased pressure by the United States, which recently deployed an aircraft carrier strike group to the Middle East in a warning message to Iran.

Besides ending sanction waivers extending to five Iranian oil importers including China, Japan, India and Turkey, the US had also recently designated Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a foreign terrorist organization.

Story 2- Singapore passes new bill to check fake news

The Parliament of Singapore on May 8, 2019 passed new laws to fight the menace of fake news. The laws will empower the authorities to order the removal of any content reported to be fake despite fierce criticism from tech giants and the media and rights groups.

The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill will enable the government to order social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to put up warnings next to posts that the authorities deem to be false or get them taken down in extreme cases.

Key Highlights

The new laws were passed on May 8 after being debated upon in the Parliament for two days. Singapore’s Parliament is dominated by the ruling People's Action Party.

The state’s small opposition party- Workers' Party, which has six elected members in the 89-seat chamber, opposed the new measures.

The new bill grants the ruling government with broad powers including the ability to demand corrections in the news that is deemed fake, demanding the removal of such content, or blocking websites deemed to be publishing fake news in extreme cases.

It also empowers the government ministers to act to protect national security, public health, public finance, public safety and tranquillity in the friendly relations between Singapore and other countries.

The penalties for not complying with the laws include steep fines and jail time.

The government stated that the new laws target false statements and not opinions and that ordering corrections to be placed alongside the fake news will be the primary response rather than fines or jail terms.

Punishment

Under the new laws, if any post deemed to be fake is judged to be malicious and damaging to Singapore's interests, then the parties responsible for putting it up would be subjected to a hefty fine or jail term.

While companies could face a fine of up to 735,000 US dollars, individuals could face jail terms of up to 10 years.

Criticism

The new laws have sparked outrage from rights groups, technology companies and media organisations who fear that they could stifle online discussion.

According to the critics, the legislation criminalises free speech and it will give the Singapore authorities unchecked powers to censor the online views that it disapproves. They claim that the new legislation doesn't even provide any real definition of what is true or false or misleading.

They further argued that the private sector should have the final say on what constitutes false and irresponsible statements.

The critics stated that the problem of fake news should be tackled through fact-checking websites, vigilance by tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Twitter and increased media literacy.

Background

Singapore, which regulates its large local media outlets, is ranked 151 out 180 in the World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders.

Overall, the new bill is expected to impact freedom of expression and curtail the rights of individuals in Singapore to freely express opinions and participate in informed discussions and even debates, which are necessary to ensure executive transparency and accountability.

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