Exclusive: ADM CEO says wrong time for 'monster' acquisitions

CHICAGO (Reuters) – U.S. grain merchant Archer Daniels Midland Co (ADM) has looked at buying rivals including Bunge Ltd. and dozens of other companies but decided the time is not right for “monster” acquisitions, the company’s chief executive told Reuters.

ADM’s overture to Bunge last year, reported by Reuters and other media, fueled Wall Street speculation of further consolidation among the world’s major trading houses that sell, store and ship crops.

“I cannot run ADM and say Bunge is out there, oh, I never made an analysis of Bunge. Of course we do,” CEO and Chairman Juan Luciano said in a rare interview to discuss M&A strategy. He explained ADM has also analyzed other companies in the past including Cargill Inc [CARG.UL] and Louis Dreyfus Co [LOUDR.UL], the other members of the so-called ABCD group of grain traders.

Luciano declined to comment on whether ADM had formally made a bid for New York-based Bunge. ADM is pursuing growth in its nutrition business through smaller acquisitions and potential joint ventures in agricultural processing and other areas, he said.

“We feel we don’t need that monster transformational transaction,” Luciano said at ADM’S Chicago headquarters. High valuations and M&A competition are also deterrents from large acquisitions, Luciano said.

“When credit becomes tighter, we might flex our balance sheet a little bit more, when there’s a little bit less competition,” he said.

Acquiring Bunge would be “a nice optimization,” Luciano said. “But I have a lot of the things that Bunge has,” so there is “not a lot of urgency to me.”

Analysts have said ADM’s conservative trading strategy and diversification into flavors and nutrition helped it weather a deep slump in commodity prices better than some rivals during a global soy and corn surplus and the U.S.-China trade war.

Still, it is the only major trading company without crushing capacity in Luciano’s native Argentina, the world’s top exporter of soy meal and oil made by processing soybeans. That has increased investor expectations of ADM striking a deal with Bunge or acquiring an Argentine crushing company such as Molinos Agro.

“At the right time, we will go into Argentina,” Luciano said. He said crushing plants in Argentina were running at around 65 percent capacity and would only fall further if ADM built a new plant, limiting profit margins and further flooding the marketplace.

ADM announced on Friday the acquisition of flavors and fragrances firm Florida Chemical Company (FCC), a division of Flotek Industries, for $175 million.

    Luciano said ADM evaluates more than 50 companies each year, and added he was open to more joint ventures with competitors, like the one ADM did with privately held Cargill in Egypt. ADM does not have any JVs with Bunge, which was approached by commodity trader Glencore Plc in 2017.

“We don’t have joint ventures with Bunge, candidly, because they were in turmoil during this time,” he said.

Bunge was particularly hard hit by a global grains glut and currency issues in South America that crimped its profits before the U.S.-China trade war upended global commodities markets. Bunge spokesman Frank Mantero declined to comment, saying only “we are business as usual at Bunge.”

    ADM does not have any joint ventures with Louis Dreyfus Co. either. Louis Dreyfus did not respond to a request for comment.


Luciano said he meets regularly with U.S. and Chinese officials, and believes the countries will resolve their trade war this year, though he worried about long-term tensions.

“I think the longer it lasts, the more it complicates our lives,” he said, explaining Canadian or Russian soymeal could become alternatives to the United States.

In an example of shifting trade flows, he said ADM had sold U.S. soybeans to Argentina after prices for U.S. beans plummeted when China virtually stopped buying them. Argentina, the world’s No. 3 soybean grower after Brazil, was the world’s top importer of U.S. soybeans last year.

As part of its corporate strategy in recent years, ADM has sold assets like Brazilian sugar and Bolivian oilseed ventures. ADM is “90-something percent” done with its strategic review, he said.

The company’s two U.S. dry ethanol mills have been for sale since 2016. Luciano said offers ADM had received were too low. It is holding on to its so-called wet mills, which produce more products than dry mills.

“We are a nutrition company, not a fuel company so ethanol is not our main thrust,” he said.

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Turkish Cypriots on course for coalition government

PM declares victory for ruling UBP, but fails to achieve outright majority in parliament, unofficial results show.

    The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) is poised for another coalition government, after none of the parties managed an outright majority in the snap parliamentary elections, according to unofficial results.

    The conservative National Unity Party (UBP), led by Prime Minister Huseyin Ozgurgun, came in first place – with 36 percent of the votes – ahead of the centre-left, pro-unification Republican Turkish Party (CTP) at 21 percent, local media reported on Monday, based on an unofficial count. 

    The UBP, which has been in power for 27 years, since the establishment of the TRNC, will need to form a coalition government again in the 50-member parliament. 

    “The UBP has emerged as the biggest party by a wide margin,” Ozgurgun said while declaring victory on Monday. “We are preparing for new days with the power the people have given to the UBP.”

    The newly-formed right-wing People’s Voice Party (HP) managed 17 percent of the votes in its first election, followed by previous ruling coalition partner, Democratic Party (DP). 

    Meanwhile, the left-wing Communal Democracy Party (CDP) of President Mustafa Akinci is projected to win only three seats. 

    Official results for Sunday’s vote are expected to be announced late on Monday. 

    More than 190,000 people were registered to vote. Ballots were cast at more than 700 polling stations across the country.

    The Mediterranean island of Cyprus is split between Turkish Cypriots in the north and Greek Cypriots in the south.

    The TRNC, which has a functioning parliament and state institutions, unilaterally declared independence in 1983, breaking away from the Republic of Cyprus, and is only recognised by Turkey.

    Cyprus had been practically divided since 1974, when Turkey militarily intervened on the island in response to a brief Greek-inspired coup.

    The UBP, which was the largest partner of the previous right-wing coalition with the DP, has traditionally advocated for keeping good relations with Turkey.

    The party wants to maintain the Mediterranean island’s status quo, rather than settling the long-standing dispute to reunify Greek and Turkish Cypriot parts. 

    Along with the right-wing DP, which was founded by ex-UBP members, the UBP gave hundreds of TRNC citizenships to Turkey nationals weeks before the poll, in a move seen as a bid to increase its voter share.

    Since the establishment of the de facto TRNC, the north has been described as the “occupied part of Cyprus” by the United Nations Security Council.

    Repeated diplomatic efforts to end the partition have failed, as did the latest round of talks in Switzerland in July to reunify the island, despite efforts by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

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    PM 'disappointed' as Corbyn fails to take up offer of Brexit talks

    Speaking in Downing Street, the prime minister said her door “remains open” to Mr Corbyn, who has called on Mrs May to rule out a “no-deal” Brexit before he will hold talks with her.

    The PM’s address came after she survived an attempt by the opposition to oust her, prevailing by 325 votes to 306 – a majority of 19.

    Mr Corbyn tabled the motion of no confidence in the immediate aftermath of the PM’s Brexit deal being overwhelmingly rejected by MPs on Tuesday.

    Conservative MPs who voted against their leader on her EU Withdrawal Agreement then rallied around her, along with the DUP, to see off the opposition’s attempts to remove Mrs May from Downing Street.

    “I believe it is my duty to deliver on the British people’s instruction to leave the European Union. And I intend to do so,” the PM said outside Number 10.

    “So now MPs have made clear what they don’t want, we must all work constructively together to set out what parliament does want.

    “That’s why I am inviting MPs from all parties to come together to find a way forward. One that both delivers on the referendum and can command the support of Parliament.

    “This is now the time to put self-interest aside.”

    Mrs May said she had already held “constructive” talks with Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable and Ian Blackford and Liz Saville-Roberts, the Westminster leaders of the SNP and Plaid Cymru respectively.

    The PM has to return to the Commons on Monday and set out her next steps on Brexit after the rejection of her deal.

    But Mr Corbyn has made clear that he will only countenance holding talks with Mrs May if she rules out the prospect of Britain leaving the EU without a deal on 29 March.

    He told MPs in the Commons after the result of the no-confidence vote was announced: “Before there can be any positive discussions about the way forward, the government must remove clearly once and for all the prospect of the catastrophe of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit from the EU and all the chaos that would come as a result of that.”

    The SNP has made clear it wants options like extending Article 50, holding a second referendum and ruling out “no-deal” to be on the table in the talks.

    The party, along with the Lib Dems, Greens and Plaid Cymru, has also called on Mr Corbyn to back a second referendum now that his no-confidence motion has failed.

    The Labour leader wants a general election to be held in the first instance and has pledged to renegotiate Mrs May’s Brexit deal if he wins power.

    But the party says all options – including backing another referendum – are on the table if it cannot secure another election.

    The DUP said the result of the no-confidence vote “shows the importance” of the Northern Ireland party’s confidence and supply deal with the Tories.

    Deputy leader Nigel Dodds said the party’s 10 MPs had “once again” made the difference.

    Although the immediate danger to the PM’s position has receded slightly, she risks losing control of the Brexit process when she sets out her alternative plan to parliament on Monday.

    This is because she must table a motion which can be amended by MPs, who are expected to use the opportunity to test support for a range of alternatives to the PM’s strategy.

    These include ruling out “no-deal”, a second referendum and a Norway-style relationship with the EU.

    Labour MP David Lammy, a supporter of the Best for Britain campaign for a second referendum, said the PM was “like a broken record”.

    He added: “After two-and-a-half years of damaging the country’s economy and international standing while failing to get consensus in Parliament, her refusal to change tack is a historic mistake.

    “If the prime minister really cares about the national interest, she would give the public the final say over this Brexit mess, with the option to stay in the EU.”

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    North America's eastern winter: Freeze, thaw, freeze

    After some relief from the cold temperatures, another Arctic freeze is on its way to eastern parts of the US and Canada.

      After days of extremely cold temperatures, Friday felt like spring in the northeastern part of the United States and eastern Canada.

      Toronto registered 13 degrees Celsius, (14C above average), New York City’s Central Park had a reasonable 8C, and Washington, DC recorded a ridiculous 18C, (12C above normal). Given that last weekend it was about -10C with snow on the ground, this was a significant warming, and thaw.

      After two weeks below freezing, the salt water Cape Cod Canal has a surface of chunky ice. Temperatures have regularly dropped below -15C at night in Massachusetts and Rhode Island since the end of last year. This is well below the freezing point of sea water, which is typically -2C. A coastguard boat was breaking ice in the Boston Harbour on Thursday.

      The record-breaking Arctic freeze at the start of the year has frozen much of the Great Lakes’ surface. Rivers in the northeast flow with pancake ice on the surface; ice chunks are causing jams under bridges. The rapid thaw of snow with the falling of warm rain is now putting residents in New England under risk of flooding.

      But the warmth and flood risk will be short-lived. Another wave of Arctic air is rapidly advancing from the Midwest.

      Chicago had a warm 15C day on Thursday. Overnight the figure dropped to -5C, a temperature which was maintained on Friday. Saturday is likely to be no warmer than -8C.

      The same thing happened in Toronto on Friday. In 18 hours, the temperature dropped 23 degrees Celsius, down to -12C, which was last seen less than a week ago. As this Arctic front marches eastwards again, winter weather warnings are in force from Kentucky to Maine.

      Icy roads in Arkansas and Tennessee caused numerous vehicle collisions. Freezing rain in Pennsylvania and New York could bring down power lines, as well as slicken roads. Snow is expected to follow.

      Snow was reported on Friday as far south as Louisiana.

      Atlanta, Georgia felt the cold slap as well, as temperatures dropped from 14C to -2C.

      Rochester, New York reported 10cm of snow overnight as the temperature fell from 15C to -7C.

      Ultimately the rapid drop in temperature will be the most obvious change for the eastern parts of the US and Canada.

      Sunday’s high, although in the sunshine, will be -9C in Toronto, -5C in Boston, -4C in New York City.

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      Companies cry out for Brexit clarity, warn on no-deal

      LONDON (REUTERS) – Furious companies facing weeks more uncertainty over an ever closer Brexit lashed out at politicians on Wednesday (Jan 16), and warned of chaos at ports and catastrophic job losses if Britain failed to secure a withdrawal deal with the European Union.

      British lawmakers rejected on Tuesday a Brexit agreement that would have secured tariff-free trade and safeguarded the just-in-time cross-border supply chains on which many manufacturers and retailers depend, risking the country’s disorderly departure from the bloc on March 29.

      Companies ranging from Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel to Scotch whisky distillers were unanimous in calling for urgent and decisive action by the British government and warning of the consequences of a no-deal Brexit.

      “The distortions would be too great for trade, financing conditions and investor confidence,” said Deutsche Bank chief executive Christian Sewing at an event in Berlin, predicting a disorderly Brexit would plunge Britain into recession for at least two years and lop a half percentage point off economic output for the remainder of the EU.

      The imposition of customs checks on every truck crossing the English Channel could lead to tailbacks stretching 130km from London to the port of Dover, Mr Jens Bjorn Andersen, the head of Danish freight company DSV, warned.

      The port handles 17 per cent of the United Kingdom’s goods trade. Up to 10,000 trucks a day pass through with everything from perishable food to medicines.

      In case of problems at Dover, logistics giant Deutsche Post said it had opened an office in the English port of Southampton and had 450 customs specialists advising clients.

      It has spent 12 months planning for a no-deal Brexit, but without any clarity on Britain’s next steps cannot put any of those plans in place, it said.

      “We are relying on a decision by the United Kingdom,” said Deutsche Post, which employs 54,000 people in Britain.

      Germany’s chemical and pharmaceutical industry association (VCI) called for interim solutions to avoid a chaotic Brexit, in particular measures to ensure the supply of medicines.

      “A disorderly Brexit would create such a complex situation that it is impossible for companies to prepare for all eventualities,” said VCI managing director Utz Tillmann.

      Belgium’s finance minister warned Belgian companies on Wednesday to step up their plans for Brexit, with figures showing only one in five is ready for the customs arrangements that could apply for trade with Britain.

      LTO Nederland, which represents Dutch farmers and agricultural producers who export goods worth more than €8 billion (S$12.4 billion) annually, said unhindered trade was crucial.

      Its members were discussing with customers and partners how best to prepare and “spread the pain over the chain”. It urged the Dutch government to offer practical solutions.

      “Whether it be manufacturing, agriculture or services, across the piste we rely on trade. We don’t have a massive domestic economy. The reason a no-deal Brexit is so scary is because tariffs on everything are highly punitive under WTO (World Trade Organisation) rules,” said Andrew Jackson, head of fixed income at fund manager Hermes Investment Management.

      Mr John Allan, president of the Confederation of British Industry and chairman of supermarket group Tesco, told BBC Radio that those thinking they could ditch the free trade agreements Britain has with the EU and renegotiate from scratch were living in “cloud cuckoo land”.

      Looking at the wider British economy, Swiss ground services and cargo handling business Swissport Group warned a disorderly Brexit could further tighten the UK labour market. The pressure has ramped up since the 2016 referendum, with fewer EU candidates entering the UK job market.

      Executive vice-president of EMEA Luzius Wirth said some airports were already experiencing a workforce shortage, driving up labour costs by as much as 10 per cent in parts of the country, with workers able to negotiate higher salaries.

      British Prime Minister Theresa May must now speak to senior parliamentarians to find a compromise that would avoid a no-deal Brexit or consider another referendum on EU membership.

      The opposition Labour party’s finance minister-in-waiting, Mr John McDonnell, said Mrs May could eventually get a deal through Parliament if she negotiated a compromise with his party.

      Share prices were spared heavy losses on Wednesday as analysts said the risks of further deadlock were already priced in. Some UK bank stocks even gained slightly, suggesting optimism for a parliamentary compromise over Brexit, according to some investors including Mr David Roberts, co-manager on the Liontrust Strategic Bond fund.

      “Global investors now believe the chances of a ‘hard’ economically damaging Brexit have receded… There is still a long way to go, but hopes of a mutually beneficial solution are growing,” he said.

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      Red Bull '4pm Finish' tube ad banned over implied health claims

      The poster, seen on the London Underground on 11 September, implied Red Bull could help workers finish their work by 4pm.

      It stated: “The secret to finishing early… Because to leap every hurdle a hectic day brings, you just need to know: Red Bull gives you wings… For a flying 4pm finish…”

      The Advertising Standards Authority said it was upholding a complaint from a reader and while the advert was light-hearted, it made health claims that are against European Union rules.

      The watchdog said: “While we understood that the ad was intended to be part of a marketing initiative aimed at encouraging consumers to improve their productivity and leave at 4pm on a specific day, we considered that the penultimate line of the poem, ‘to leap every hurdle a hectic day brings’, implied that Red Bull could help improve consumers’ mental focus, concentration and energy levels, and therefore increase productivity.”

      Red Bull said the ad promoted the 4pm Finish “consumer initiative”, which encouraged workers to leave one hour early on Friday 14 September.

      It said the ad did not suggest the drink delivered a health benefit, made people better at doing their job through increased concentration or focus, or had any health benefit at all.

      The ASA warned Red Bull that the ad must not appear again in its current form.

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      Yoweri Museveni 'loves Trump for frankness' with Africa

      Yoweri Museveni says he ‘loves’ US president for alleged ‘shithole’ comment as ‘Africans need to solve their problems’.

        Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni has said he loves US President Donald Trump for being “frank” with Africans, after Trump allegedly called African countries “shitholes”.

        Trump made the comment at an immigration meeting earlier this month, according to senators present at the White House meeting. The US president denied making the comment, saying he used “tough language”.

        “America has got one of the best presidents ever,” Museveni said on Tuesday while addressing members of the regional East African Legislative Assembly in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.

        “I love Trump because he tells Africans frankly. Africans need to solve their problems. They need to be strong. In the world, you cannot survive if you are weak and it is the fault of Africans if they are weak,” Museveni said.

        Museveni’s comments came hours after the US ambassador to the East African country described Trump’s controversial remark as “obviously quite disturbing and upsetting”.

        During his State of the Nation address on January 1, Museveni, who came to power in Uganda more than three decades ago, called Trump an honest man.

        The African Union condemned on January 12 the US leader’s comments “in the strongest terms” and demanded a retraction “as well as an apology, not only to the Africans, but to all people of African descent around the globe”.

        Meanwhile, in Haiti, a country Trump also disparaged in the meeting, thousands took to the streets on Monday to protest the US leader’s comments.

        In June 2017, Trump allegedly said during a meeting that all people from Haiti “have AIDS”, that recent Nigerian immigrants would never “go back to their huts” in Africa, and that Afghanistan is a “terrorist haven”, according to the New York Times.

        Talk to Al Jazeera

        Yoweri Museveni: A five times-elected dictator?

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        Brexit Pandora's Box about to burst open

        On Wednesday night all those Tories and DUP MPs who had voted her down on her Brexit deal, backed her government as she won a confidence vote by a majority of 19.

        This may be the most divided Conservative party in modern times but for a few hours they managed to club together united in a common cause: their loathing of Jeremy Corbyn.

        But it was a fleeting truce, born from a desire of her MPs to avoid a general election – for now – rather than genuine support for Mrs May.

        Her victory does nothing to lift the Brexit paralysis that has descended upon her cabinet, her government, her party and parliament.

        There was a thumping majority in the House of Commons against her deal, but MPs from all sides of the House of Commons are fighting like ferrets in a sack about what they want instead: An delay to Brexit; a no deal Brexit; a Norway-style softer Brexit that keeps Britain in the customs union; a second referendum.

        Leaving her Brexiteers on one side, MPs across the House of Commons believe Mrs May will have to smudge at least some of her red lines – exiting the customs union and the single market and ending freedom of movement – if she wants to secure a cross-party Brexit deal.

        The price of their support will almost certainly be a softer Brexit at best or a second referendum at worst.

        Mr Corbyn has already set down a challenge to the prime minister, telling her he will not enter cross-party talks unless she rules out a No Deal Brexit – something he knows will enrage many eurosceptic Conservative backbenchers.

        Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party are all pressing for a second referendum -something which the prime minister has made very clear she cannot countenance.

        But many of her ministers acknowledge privately that she will have to trade something if she wants to secure a deal. Labour’s price will be – at the very least – a customs union with the EU.

        Senior Remainers have implored her around the cabinet table to try to build a consensus that commands a majority in parliament and are now taking those arguments public in defiance of a lame duck PM.

        They are speaking out against no deal and speaking up for – perhaps – staying in a customs union with the EU or extending Article 50 to secure a deal.

        No. 10 was desperate on Wednesday to keep this Pandora’s Box shut on the day of a Confidence Vote in her shaky government. The last thing she needs after such a devastating defeat is for her restive Brexiteers to go completely rogue.

        Mrs May’s team knows fully well that softening her Brexit by offering opposition MPs and the DUP concessions on the customs union could get a deal over the line, but could prove fatal for her party and her government, provoking a perhaps terminal split in the Conservative party and triggering a general election.

        She said on the steps of Downing Street last night that it was time to put the national interest above all else.

        And the next few weeks will see if she is truly ready to put her money where her mouth is and, if necessary, disavow her Brexiteers in order to deliver Brexit – whatever the consequences for her and her party.

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        Chile to remember indigenous victims of dictatorship

        Many activists vanished during the 1970s and their remains were never found.

          Chile is due to open its first memorial to the members of the Mapuche indigenous minority, killed during the country’s period of military dictatorship.

          Many activists vanished during the 1970s and their remains were never found.

          Al Jazeera’s Lucia Newman reports from Temuco in central Chile.

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          Donald Trump 'undermining global press freedom': CPJ

          US president has had the most negative effect on press freedom worldwide, according to a journalism advocacy group.

            Washington, DC – Donald Trump has been awarded a tongue-in-cheek prize for “undermining global press freedom” by a journalism advocacy group, after the US president’s first year in office was dominated by personal attacks on media outlets and reporters.

            Trump topped the list of world leaders accused by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) of attempting to silence critics and censor citizens. 

            Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa programme director, said Trump was awarded the prize for “overall achievement” because of the effect he had “locally and internationally [on] the cause of press freedom”.

            “This is the president of the United States and what he says matters,” Mansour told Al Jazeera.

            The ironic awards were handed out this week to various heads of state who have “gone out of their way to attack the press and undermine the norms that support freedom of the media”, the group said.

            The list also included Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

            1,000 tweets

            Over the past year, the Trump administration has accused media outlets of spreading “fake news”, an epithet that has been since adopted by leaders in countries across the world.

            Trump was also named runner-up in the “most thin-skinned” category, losing to Erdogan.

            The US president’s response to criticism in the media has been frequent, ranging from issuing threats to sue outlets or having their broadcast licenses revoked, to making suggestions that US libel laws be changed to make it easier to go after news organisations.

            Since 2015, when he first declared his presidential candidacy, Trump has posted about 1,000 tweets that criticise or disparage the press, according to a tally by the Columbia Journalism Review.

            Using Twitter as his social media tool of choice, Trump has regularly insulted media outlets, calling them “garbage”, “sad” or “failing”.

            He has also called for various journalists to be fired and for certain media organisations to be boycotted.

            On the campaign trail, Trump mocked a New York Times reporter, Serge Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis, a congenital condition which affects the functioning of the joints.

            Trump’s latest attack has focused on Michael Wolff, author of the new White House tell-all book, Fire and Fury. Trump’s lawyers had attempted to block its publication while a spokeswoman for the president said the book was full of “ridiculous lies”.

            Journalists jailed

            Meanwhile, the number of imprisoned journalists reached a record high last year, with 262 journalists behind bars worldwide at the end of 2017, CPJ reported.

            The group said Russia and China hold the tightest grip on their respective media.

            Using censorship and internet controls, as well as harassment and imprisonment, Beijing has restrained the work of its journalists. Under Putin, Russian independent media has slowly dissipated as journalists were either killed, jailed or harassed, according to CPJ.

            This week, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was named runner-up for CPJ’s “most outrageous use of terror laws against the press” award. At least 20 journalists were imprisoned in Egypt at the end of last year, the group said.

            The de facto leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, won the prize for the “biggest backslider in press freedom” for security officials’ harassment of journalists trying to report on the crisis affecting the majority-Muslim Rohingya ethnic group.

            The UN has termed the attacks against the minority “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

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