A number of small towns in Poland have been campaigning against what they call 'homosexual ideology'. Local authorities in the provinces have passed resolutions against perceived threats such as sex education and gay rights. LGBT activists complain that they are stoking homophobia and effectively declaring ‘gay-free zones’. Both sides argue that they are protecting the universal values of free speech and justice. But the row has attracted international condemnation. The European Union has withheld funds to six of the towns involved, and some of their twinning partners in Europe have broken off ties. Meanwhile, politicians within Poland’s conservative ruling coalition stand accused of exploiting the divisions to further a reactionary social agenda. Lucy Ash reports. Mike Gallagher producing.
The Netherlands - small and overcrowded - is facing fundamental questions about how to use its land, following a historic court judgment forcing the state to take more urgent action to limit nitrogen emissions. Dutch nitrogen emissions - damaging the climate and biodiversity - are the highest in Europe per capita. And though traffic and building are also partly to blame, farmers say the government is principally looking to agriculture to make the necessary reductions. They've staged a series of protests - what they call a farmers' uprising - in response to a suggestion from a leading politician that the number of farm animals in the country should be cut by half. This is meant to bring down levels of ammonia, a nitrogen compound produced by dung and urine. The proposal comes even though their cows, pigs and chickens have helped make the tiny Netherlands into the world's second biggest exporter of food. Farmers think they're being sacrificed so that the construction industry, also responsible for some nitrogen pollution, can have free rein to keep building, as the country's population, boosted by immigration, grows relentlessly. What do the Dutch want most - cows or houses? Will there be any room in the future for the ever-shrinking patches of nature? And in a hungry world, shouldn't the country concentrate on one of the things it's best at - feeding people? Tim Whewell travels through a country that must make big choices, quickly.
Pineapple beer is the universal homebrew in South Africa and pineapple prices trebled when the government imposed a ban on the sale of alcohol and tobacco during the coronavirus pandemic. South Africa has recorded the highest number of coronavirus cases in Africa and the government introduced the ban to ease the pressure on hospitals. With the infection rate now falling the ban has been lifted although some restrictions remain in place. Ed Butler and Vauldi Carelse have been hearing from the brewers, both legal and illegal, on the impact the ban has had on their livelihoods and on people’s health, and since the ban has ended, from those considering what lessons the nation might learn from its experiment with being ‘dry’. (Image: Barman working at a bar which has re-opened under new regulations in Val, South Africa, 07 August 2020. Credit: EPA/Kim Ludbrook)
A death-defying migrant's story... Said Reza Adib was a TV journalist in Afghanistan. In 2016, about to break a story about the sexual abuse of children by Afghan men in authority, he received a threat to his life. Reza fled across the border to Iran. But journalism was in his blood, and in Iran he began to investigate sensitive stories related to the war in Syria. When Iranian authorities confiscated his lap top, he knew his life was again in danger. That same day, with his wife and two small children, he began a perilous journey to safety in Finland – an odyssey that would last four years. The family would survive shooting on the Turkish border, a voyage across the Aegean Sea on an overcrowded makeshift vessel with fake lifejackets, and then the nightmare of refugee camps in Greece. It was here that Chloe Hadjimatheou met Reza, and for Crossing Contintents she tells the story of a remarkable journalist who’s continued to ply his trade - in spite of the odds stacked against him. Producer: Linda Pressly (Image: Said Reza Adib. Credit: Sayed Ahmadzia Ebrahimi)
Spain’s King Juan Carlos – a story of entitlement and dynasty… The emeritus king, Juan Carlos, has left Spain. But the man who propelled his nation from dictatorship to democracy is under intense public scrutiny. At the heart of allegations against the former king is a $100 million gift from the Saudi Royals. The Supreme Court in Madrid is investigating whether Juan Carlos can be accused of any crimes related to this cash. Spain’s often unquestioning acceptance of its monarchy began to unravel in 2012 when King Juan Carlos fractured a hip during an elephant-hunting trip to Botswana. Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, his former lover, was with him in Africa. She talks exclusively to Crossing Continents about a multi-million Euro gift from the king, claims she was pursued by Spain's intelligence service, and - that elephant. Presenter / producer: Linda Pressly Presenter / producer in Spain: Esperanza Escribano Editor: Bridget Harney
In March and April, Guayaquil in Ecuador was the epicentre of the Covid pandemic in Latin America. The city’s health services began to collapse fast, so that the bodies of the dead were not collected from homes. Being at a loss to know what to do, desperate families deposited the remains of their loved ones in the streets. Eventually they were picked up, but in the chaos, some of the remains of those who died went missing. For Crossing Continents, Mike Lanchin follows the story of Rita Baque as she searches for the body of her late husband. Producer in Ecuador: Blanca Moncada. Editor: Bridget Harney
A mysterious illness appears out of nowhere. The number of cases rises exponentially, as the authorities attempt to downplay the severity of the disease. There is a shortage of medical staff, equipment and arguments about whether people should wear masks. People are forbidden to leave their homes and many are left stranded in unfamiliar places, separated from loved ones. Albert Camus’ novel The Plague set in the Algerian city of Oran under French colonial rule was published more than 70 years ago. But today it almost reads like a current news bulletin and seems more relevant than ever. This edition of Crossing Continents revisits Oran in the age of the coronavirus and investigates the parallels between now and then. For the time being, it seems the pandemic has achieved something the authorities have tried but failed to do for the past year – clear the streets of protestors. Lucy Ash investigates Algeria’s plague of authoritarianism and finds that the government has been using Covid 19 as an excuse to crack down harder on dissent. Reporter: Lucy Ash Producer: Neil Kisserli Editor: Bridget Harney
A failed coup in Venezuela - a story of hubris, incompetence, and treachery… At the beginning of May, the government of Nicolas Maduro announced the armed forces had repelled an attempted landing by exiled Venezuelans on the coast north of Caracas. Some were killed, others captured. This was Operation Gideon – an incursion involving a few dozen, poorly-equipped men, and two former US Special Forces soldiers. The hair brained plan to depose Nicolas Maduro, and force a transition in Caracas was conceived by Venezuela's political opposition in neighbouring Colombia, the United States and Venezuela. Command and control of Operation Gideon allegedly lay with another former US Special Forces soldier, Jordan Goudreau. But why would men with decades of military experience between them join a plan that, from the outset, looked like a suicide mission? For Crossing Continents, Linda Pressly goes in search of answers. Presenter / producer: Linda Pressly Producer in Venezuela: Vanessa Silva Editor: Bridget Harney (Image: Jordan Goudreau and Javier Nieto address the Venezuelan people on 3 May, 2020. Credit: Javier Nieto)
The untold story of Abood Hamam, perhaps the only photojournalist to have worked under every major force in Syria's war - and lived to tell the tale. At the start of the uprising he was head of photography for the state news agency, SANA, taking official shots of President Assad and his wife Asma by day - and secretly filming opposition attacks by night. Later he defected and returned to his home town, Raqqa, where various rebel groups were competing for control. Other journalists fled when the terrorists of so-called Islamic State (IS) took over, but Abood stayed - and was asked by IS to film its victory parade. He sent pictures of life under IS to agencies all over the world - using a pseudonym. As the bombing campaign by the anti-IS coalition intensified, Abood moved away - but returned later to record the heartbreaking destruction - but also the slow return of life, and colour, to the streets. For months, he roamed through the ruins with his camera, seeing himself as ”the guardian of the city." Raqqa's future is still very uncertain, but Abood now wants everyone to see his pictures, which he posts on Facebook, and know his real name. He hopes the colours he's showing will tempt the thousands of families who've fled Raqqa to return home, and rebuild their lives, and their city. Reporter: Tim Whewell Producer: Mohamad Chreyteh Sound mix: James Beard Production coordinator: Gemma Ashman Editor: Bridget Harney
Thousands of Bulgarian parents pulled their children out of school in a mass panic last October, fearing they would be abducted by social workers. Many more are protesting against a draft law they say puts 70 per cent of children at similar risk. Are they right to be scared? Or have rumours and fake news spread hysteria about the power of the state? Suddenly, campaigns to defend the “traditional family” are gathering strength in Bulgaria – and across eastern Europe. What’s behind them? And why do they treat one Western country – Norway – as the ultimate source of evil? Tim Whewell investigates.