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Japan's role in the Arab world, elections in Ethiopia, addressing Islamophobia, press coverage of Charlie Hebdo, France-US friendship

This week's round-up of global commentary includes calls for greater involvement of Japan in Arab countries, free and fair elections in Ethiopia, living with diverse beliefs, press coverage and US-France relations after the attack at Charlie Hebdo.

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    Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to the media at his official residence after returning from his Middle East trip, in Tokyo January 21, 2015. Japan will do its utmost to free two of its countrymen believed to be held captive by the Islamic State militant group, Abe told reporters on Wednesday, adding that Tokyo would never give in to terrorism.
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The Japan Times / Tokyo
Japan should help in peacebuilding efforts in the Arab world

“Four years ago..., demonstrations in Tunisia ... toppled an authoritarian government in the country, inspiring an ‘Arab Spring’ of people’s protest movements ... in various Arab countries,” states an editorial. “[T]oday much of the Arab world is beset by oppression and conflict. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who [toured] Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Palestine [in January], should seriously consider how Japan can help stabilize this part of the world.... Japan needs to extend steady support in concrete form for peace-building efforts in the Arab world as well as to stress the importance of tolerance of diversified views and opinions, in the realms of culture, politics and religion.”

The Reporter / Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Hope for free and fair elections in Ethiopia

“Ethiopia has conducted four controversy-ridden general elections in the past twenty years and is preparing to hold the fifth edition in May of this year...,” states an editorial. “[T]he ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and opposition parties are at loggerheads over the impartiality of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) and other issues. Opposition parties complain that ... the political space is so suffocating that they are unable to function with freedom.... It is difficult to conduct elections in the backdrop of such animosity and irreconcilable discord.... Everything possible must be done to ensure the May elections are free, fair, peaceful and credible.”

The Guardian / London
Don’t be too rigid with your beliefs

“We too have beliefs and value systems, not all of which we can always sensibly defend,” writes Tim Lott. “When those beliefs are threatened we become aggressive.... This is partially evidenced by the furious tone of the arguments unfolding since the Charlie Hebdo murders.... Those who thought the cartoons were unduly provocative were labelled appeasers; those who called for their immediate reprinting were said to be stoking Islamophobia.... We live in a world of unprecedented change and complexity, and this makes us more desperate than ever to cling to what we think we know.... The world isn’t this way or that. It just is.... [W]e must learn to live with that reality without ... self-protective rage.... [W]e must be brave enough to not clutch our beliefs like comfort blankets ... and that involves listening to others....”

China Daily / Beijing
The press has a responsibility in communicating harmony

“French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo published its new issue, again with the image of the Prophet Muhammad on its cover ... a week after a murderous attack by militants on its Paris office,” states an editorial. “We understand that it is a courageous manifestation of defiance at the terrorist attack.... It is also a demonstration of its determined defense of the freedom of the press.... However, our sympathy with the cartoonists and innocent people gunned down by militants ... should never jaundice our understanding that the freedom of the press should not compromise the respect for a religion or culture. On the question of religion and culture, the press should promote harmonious communication and amiable dialogue between different religions and cultures, rather than causing problems for the peaceful coexistence between peoples.”

Toronto Sun / Toronto
France cannot count on America

“[The recent] terrorist attacks were France’s equivalent of 9/11...,” writes Ezra Levant. “There was [a solidarity march] in Paris..., and more than 40 world leaders attended.... But the United States sent no one of note.... The diplomatic damage was done. John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, was dispatched to Paris on Friday – nine days after the attacks – to try to fix things.... If America were a true friend to France, if it proved it in deeds, the French would be singing songs of friendship to Kerry, Obama and America.... [France] knows it can’t count on America.”

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