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World News in Brief: Palestinian journalists win top press freedom prize, child migrant detention, Niger meningitis epidemic

The top award for reporters who have born witness to the destruction of much of their homeland under Israel’s relentless bombardment came at the recommendation of an international jury of media professionals.

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“In these times of darkness and hopelessness we wish to share a strong message of solidarity and recognition to those Palestinian journalists who are covering this crisis in such dramatic circumstances”, said Mauricio Weibel, who chaired the jury. 

Huge debt

“We have a huge debt to their courage and commitment to freedom of expression”. he added.

The UN science, education and culture agency’s chief Audrey Azoulay said that the Prize reminded everyone of “the importance of collective action to ensure that journalists around the world can continue to carry out their essential work to inform and investigate”.

The ongoing conflict in Gaza is having grave consequences for journalists. Since 7 October, UNESCO has condemned and deplored the deaths of 26 journalists and media workers in the line of work, based upon information from its international NGO partners.

UNESCO is supporting journalists reporting from conflict and crisis zones which includes distributing essential supplies to journalists in Gaza, and has established safe working spaces and provided emergency grants for journalists in Ukraine and Sudan.

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Detention of child migrants in EU must end, say top rights experts

Migration news now, and a call from top independent rights experts on Thursday to end the practice of detaining the children of migrants and asylum-seekers entering the European Union.

In their appeal to the EU bloc, experts including Gehad Madi, Special Rapporteur on the rights of migrants, insisted that detention of children because of their parents’ migration status was “always a violation” of their rights.

The development comes as the European Union’s 27 Members prepare to implement a new Pact on Migration and Asylum, pending its approval by the EU Council in Brussels. 

The measures which are expected to come into effect in 2026 include the creation of national mechanisms to monitor respect for human rights during the screening of migrants and asylum seekers at country borders.

“Asylum-seekers should not be penalised for exercising the right to seek asylum, and migration should not be criminalised,” the independent experts said in a statement.

WHO launches urgent vaccination in Niger to contain meningitis epidemic

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) started a mass vaccination campaign in Niger’s Niamey region on Thursday in response to an ongoing and deadly meningitis outbreak. 

More than 2,000 cases were recorded in just one week last month and 123 people have died, the WHO said. 

Niger is one of 26 African countries where the disease is endemic and persistently poses a high-risk in the so-called African meningitis belt. 

The recent surge in cases represents a 50 per cent increase from last year, with a mortality rate exceeding six per cent.

The focus of the epicentre is Niamey region, with an infection rate of more than 52 cases per 100,000 people. Other regions such as Agadez, Zinder and Dosso also require urgent intervention to confront high infection rates, the UN health agency said.

To help protect at-risk communities, WHO is joining forces with several technical and financial partners to respond to the epidemic with a new vaccine.

Unlike previous jabs, the new meningitis vaccine is single-dose – and it protects against five strains of the infection.

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