Must-Reads from Around the World

Media freedom is declining in Bulgaria, China leads the world in cyber espionage and public confidence in the European Union has fallen to a record low in its six biggest countries

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Russia's President Vladimir Putin, right, and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu attend a meeting of senior military officials in Moscow on Feb. 27, 2013

Russia Human Rights – President Vladimir Putin is overseeing the worst era for human rights in Russia since the Soviet era, according to two new reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW), reports the Daily Telegraph. Putin, who began a second term as president almost a year ago, is accused of bringing in new laws to stifle criticism of his regime and adapting existing laws to silence dissent – policies HRW describe as “a crackdown on civil society unprecedented in the country’s post-Soviet history.” Putin has also brought in a new law which compels any organization that receives funding from abroad to describe themselves as “foreign agents” if they are considered to be involved in undefined “political activities.” Amnesty, whose Moscow office was inspected by prosecutors and tax inspectors last month, described this as “deliberately reminiscent of the Cold War,” writes the Telegraph.

Cyber Espionage — A new report reveals that China leads the world when it comes to cyber espionage, reports VOA News. According to the “2013 Data Breach Investigations Report” by Verizon, a major U.S. telecom company, 96% of computer espionage cases targeting intellectual property and business trade secrets were caused by “threat actors in China,” while the other 4% were unknown. Security experts have cautioned against drawing conclusions that the Chinese government is behind the cyber attacks originating from the country.

Bulgarian Media — The Economist notes that media freedom in Bulgaria is worsening as journalists reportedly come up against intimidation and pressure to serve the interests of political parties and various economic groups. Financial troubles and lack of transparency in media ownership also hinder greater media freedom. The Eastern European country now ranks 87th in the Reporters Without Borders’ annual Press Freedom Index, down from 35th in 2006.

Poverty in Paraguay — Export commodities like soybeans and corns generate large profits for Paraguay, but much of the country’s 6.5 million people remain left behind, reports the New York Times. Paraguay’s agriculture-driven growth fails to create enough jobs for the population, more than 30% of whom live in poverty. The commodities boom is highlighting inequality that is entrenched in Latin America’s poorest, landlocked country. Most of the arable land is controlled by 1% of the nation’s landowners and spending on social development is minimal because the government lacks tax revenues.

Confidence in the E.U. – Public confidence in the European Union has fallen to a record low in its six biggest countries, reports the Guardian. The E.U.’s polling organization surveyed people in Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Spain, and Poland. The results, which suggest a huge drop in trust in the E.U. as an institution, raise questions about the union’s democratic legitimacy, which is three years into its worst ever financial crisis, writes the Guardian. The most dramatic decrease in trust in the E.U. has occurred in Spain, where the banking and housing market collapse, eurozone bailout and soaring unemployment have combined to produce 72% “tending not to trust” the E.U., with only 20% “tending to trust.”

Angry Teachers – Teachers in Mexico’s south-western Guerrero state have attacked the offices of political parties in the state capital in protest at the country’s education reforms, reports the BBC. The rampaging teachers, who are thought to have been joined by recently-formed civilian self-defense groups, are part of Mexico’s radical teachers’ union, the National Co-ordinator of Education Workers. The reforms they are protesting against impose centralized teacher assessment and seek to end corrupt practices in the education system. But unions said they could lead to significant lay-offs and may, according to critics, be paving the way for the privatization of Mexico’s education system, writes the BBC.