February 16 Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei: Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi visited Brunei to begin efforts at formulating a collective regional response to the military coup in Myanmar that took place on Feb. 1. Marsudi is reportedly aiming to coordinate on the issue with other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a regional international organization whose rotating chairmanship is currently held by Brunei. In a joint statement with Brunei’s foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Marsudi “expressed strong support for a proposed informal ASEAN ministerial meeting” in order “to facilitate a constructive exchange of views and identify a possible way forward,” according to Reuters. A proactive response would mark a break of tradition for ASEAN, which has traditionally steered clear of the domestic affairs of its members, including Myanmar. Marsudi has also spoken to United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi about the situation in Myanmar.
February 16 Dubai, United Arab Emirates: The daughter of UAE Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has alleged that her father is keeping her hostage in solitary confinement. In a secretly recorded video obtained by BBC Panorama, Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum claims that she is being held “in a villa converted into a jail” with boarded up windows and no access to medical help. Sheikha Latifa had previously tried to flee the country in 2018 with the help of a Finnish fitness instructor, but she was captured by Indian authorities and returned to the UAE. She has not been seen in public since Dec. 2018. One of her 25 siblings, Sheikha Shamsa, has disappeared since 2000 when she also attempted to flee the country. Sheikh Mohammed’s sixth wife, Princess Haya, successfully escaped to the United Kingdom with her two children in 2019.
February 17 Barcelona, Spain: Thousands of people in the Spanish autonomous region Catalonia protested the arrest of rapper Pablo Hasél, who faces nine months in prison for allegedly glorifying terrorism and slandering the Spanish monarchy in his songs and on Twitter. Clashes between the demonstrators and police injured at least 33 people, including 17 police officers. At least 14 people were reportedly arrested. In his songs, Hásel had insulted former Spanish King Juan Carlos and fantasized about committing violence against conservative politicians. His supporters maintain that these lyrics constitute a form of freedom of expression. They took to the streets shortly after the musician was taken into custody, which brought to an end his attempt to avoid arrest by barricading himself inside the University of Lleida. Hundreds of Spanish artists, including film director Pedro Almodóvar and Hollywood star Javier Bardem, have spoken out against the imprisonment of Hasél, citing their support for freedom of speech.
February 19 Hong Kong: The government of Hong Kong announced that it will replace the director of its public broadcasting company Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) on March 1. According to Al Jazeera, a government review of the city’s sole publicly funded television channel found “deficiencies in (the) editorial management mechanism,” prompting the ouster of director Leung Ka-wing six months before the end of his contract. RTHK had drawn ire from the Hong Kong government and the city’s police for its critical investigative reporting during the pro-democracy protests that have occurred in Hong Kong since 2019. The channel’s new director, Patrick Li Pak-chuen, is a government official. Both the RTHK’s Programme Staff Union and the Hong Kong Journalists Association expressed concern about the move and its impact on the channel’s editorial independence, according to Asia Times.
February 20 Wallops Island, United States: Paraguay launched its first satellite into space, kick-starting its nascent space exploration program. The launch took place from the Virginia-based Wallops Flight Facility. The $400,000 satellite is named Guaranisat-1 and was developed by the Paraguayan Space Agency (AEP) in cooperation with a Japanese technology institute. According to La Prensa Latina Media, it will dock on the International Space Station before being placed into orbit from there in March or April. The satellite is designed to help state authorities monitor natural disasters in the country. In addition to these benefits, Jorge Kurita, the AEP’s head of planning, said the program has already had a “domino effect” in the country, thanks to “the creation of research teams and groups in the space sector, applied to solving terrestrial problems.”