What makes a whistleblower? What prompts someone to break ranks, maybe break the law, in order to expose a secret, often at great cost? Stephen Sackur interviews Katharine Gun. In 2003, she worked at the UK’s signals intelligence agency GCHQ. She leaked potentially explosive information about America’s covert effort to sway UN diplomats to support the Iraq war. She risked everything, including prison, in an act that changed her life. Now her story has been made into a movie; but, 16 years on, has her perspective changed?
Image: Katherine Gun (Credit: Lia Toby/Getty Images for BFI)
What is the most serious existential threat facing humanity? Artificial Intelligence, warned the physicist Stephen Hawking, could spell the end of the human race. Stephen Sackur interviews Stuart Russell, a globally-renowned computer scientist and sometime adviser to the UK Government and the UN. Right now, AI is being developed as a tool to enhance human capability; is it fanciful to imagine the machines taking over?
Brexit represents a political gamble played for the highest of stakes. If Britain leaves the EU without a deal there will be significant economic disruption, even the most ardent Brexiteers acknowledge that. But they believe the potential rewards justify the risk. Stephen Sackur speaks to Stuart Wheeler, a successful businessman and lifelong gambler who backed his commitment to Brexit with plenty of his own cash. Has his money given him undue influence over Britain’s future?
Rock music inhabits a world of permanent revolution. Today’s biggest bands will most likely be tomorrow’s tired old has-beens. But just occasionally artists and groups find a way of reinventing themselves and outlasting the constant fluctuations in fashion and taste. Stephen Sackur speaks to the singer-songwriter Brett Anderson. His band Suede was hailed as the future of Rock'n'Roll back in the early 1990s. Today they are still making music a generation after Britpop ceased to be a thing. So what keeps him going?
The number of forest fires burning in the Amazon rainforest may have dropped since the global alarm was raised in August, but Brazil’s Government is still feeling intense political heat. Stephen Sackur interviews Brazilian Environment Minister Ricardo Salles, who is in Europe trying to convince sceptics that President Bolsonaro’s government is not prioritising economic exploitation at the expense of environmental protection. How credible are the Brazilian Government’s soothing words?
Image: Ricardo Salles (Credit: Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images)
Zeinab Badawi interviews British actress, activist and model Jameela Jamil. After breaking into the US with the critically-acclaimed comedy series ‘The Good Place’, she’s been getting attention for her criticism of celebrities like the Kardashians for their promotion of diet products to millions of young women on social media. Is her campaign to make us feel better about our bodies working?
It has been two months since India revoked the special autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir, and Delhi still has the territory in a form of lockdown. Political leaders are detained, troops are on the streets and communication links are disrupted. The Modi Government seems confident its dramatic cancellation of a 70-year-old dispensation has worked; but what of Kashmiri feeling? Stephen Sackur speaks to Iltija Mufti, the daughter of former Chief Minister of Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti, who is currently in detention. Do Kashmiris have any choice but to accept their new reality?
What have almost two decades of American intervention in Afghanistan achieved? HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Kimberley Motley - an American lawyer who went to Kabul in a training capacity and stayed to become a respected litigator fighting for the rights of the abused and the powerless. The death toll in the Afghan conflict far outstrips the losses in Syria and Yemen. But the grim statistics tell only a part of Afghanistan’s story. Does her experience give grounds for hope or despair?
Is impeachment a trap for President Trump's opponents? HARDtalk's Stephen Sackur speaks to Anthony Scaramucci, former Trump cheerleader, briefly his communications director and now an arch critic. The Trump presidency has seen US politics become ever more polarised and partisan. The Democrats decision to begin impeachment proceedings based on emerging details of President Trump’s dealings with the President of Ukraine has intensified the political warfare in Washington.
How do we ensure our astonishing technological advances are harnessed for good, not harm? HARDtalk's Stephen Sackur speaks to the President of Microsoft, Brad Smith. Remember the time when the internet was trumpeted as the tech tool that would deliver us a golden age of knowledge, freedom and democracy? Now we’re in a darker, more cynical place – the digital revolution has generated fears about lost privacy, mass surveillance and systemic misinformation. Have the corporate titans of tech failed us?
Image: Brad Smith (Credit: Gary He/Reuters)
Why is Lebanon dogged by chaos? HARDtalk's Stephen Sackur speaks to the country’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil. Lebanese politics is a world of complex alliances, delicate inter-communal arrangements, and almost permanent instability. Lebanon currently has a functioning government but it’s dealing with a host of deep problems: the economy is a mess, national debt is spiralling and regional conflict threatens to pull the country apart at the seams. Is the current Lebanese government making a bad situation worse?
Image: Gebran Bassil (Credit: Clemens Bilan/EPA)
South Africa's Minister of International Relations Naledi Pandor talks about the recent spate of xenophobic attacks in South Africa. Twelve people were killed earlier this month when mobs attacked foreign-owned businesses, mainly in Johannesburg. It follows similar outbreaks in 2008 and 2015 which left dozens of people dead.
Indonesia has the right kind of assets in terms of population, natural resources and strategic position to be a 21st century superpower; but there are clouds on the horizon. For five decades Jakarta has suppressed a Papuan independence movement, and in recent months tensions have flared into violence. Stephen Sackur interviews Benny Wenda, exiled leader of the West Papuan Liberation Movement. Can he take on Jakarta and win?
Image: Benny Wenda (Credit: United Liberation Movement for West Papua/AFP)
Extraordinary events have become the norm in the last three months in Hong Kong. The territory has become a cockpit of political protest and sporadic violence as many thousands continue to demand democratic reform. Stephen Sackur interviews Anson Chan; she was the Chief Secretary of Hong Kong during the handover from British to Chinese rule. She is still close to the centre of the storm, as Beijing now accuses her of fomenting the protest. Is Hong Kong’s fragile status quo irretrievably broken?
Is there any clarity and coherence to the opponents of Brexit? Stephen Sackur speaks to MP Heidi Allen who quit the Conservative party earlier this year to co-found a new pro-remain centrist party. With Prime Minister Boris Johnson apparently intent on ignoring the will of parliament and exiting the EU at the end of October the eye of the Brexit storm is fast approaching.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has positioned himself as the country’s Brexit champion, but his pledge to take Britain out of the EU on October the 31st is in trouble. Parliament has passed a law requiring him to seek a deadline extension from the EU; so either he negotiates a new exit deal in short order, or he attempts to defy the law. How is this British melodrama being viewed in Europe? Stephen Sackur interviews French MEP and former Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau. Has EU patience with British indecision run out?
Image: Nathalie Loiseau (Credit: Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images)
British politics is in full-on meltdown mode. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has lost a series of key votes on Brexit, AND his parliamentary majority. He’s now seeking a general election in mid-October to let British voters decide whether Brexit should happen, come what may, at the end of next month. But will the Labour opposition agree to a snap poll? Stephen Sackur interviews former Labour cabinet minister Lord Falconer. Is Labour in any fit state to win an election amid Britain’s Brexit chaos?
The number of migrants making the sea crossing from North Africa to southern Europe has fallen dramatically in the last two years; tragically, the number of deaths hasn’t declined as fast. Humanitarian activists blame the anti-migration policies of EU member states. Stephen Sackur speaks to Carola Rackete, who defied the Italian authorities to land the rescue-ship Sea Watch 3 in Sicily with 50 migrants on board. To some, she’s a humanitarian hero; but will her actions merely encourage more people smuggling and more suffering?
Image: Carola Rackete (Credit: Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters)
Eighty years ago, hundreds of Jewish children were smuggled out of Nazi occupied Europe by train in a covert humanitarian mission which became known as the ‘kindertransport’. Stephen Sackur speaks to Dame Stephanie Shirley, who was one of those children. She went on to live an extraordinary life of achievement and philanthropy, blazing a trail for women in business, science and technology. What lessons can we learn from a woman determined to make the most of a life so nearly extinguished in childhood?
Our planet is haemorrhaging natural resources at an alarming rate. Biodiversity is under threat as forests are felled, wild animals illegally hunted. Stephen Sackur speaks to Lee White, newly appointed Environment Minister in the West African state of Gabon. He is on the front line of the effort to conserve and protect what remains, in a country famed for its tropical forests, its elephants and gorillas, but also notorious for systemic corruption and inequality. Can Gabon find a sustainable balance between the needs of man and nature?
The human preoccupation with sex is nothing new – but the internet has made it so much easier to explore and exploit every shade of desire. The online porn industry makes billions of dollars in profit every year, but the big winners are corporate players, not the women and men performing the sex acts. Stephen Sackur interviews Mia Khalifa; she was briefly a porn actress, garnering worldwide notoriety when she appeared in a sex video wearing the Islamic hijab. After years of threats and insecurity, she’s speaking out; what does her story tells us about the porn industry and 21st century culture?
Donald Trump, the self-proclaimed ‘deal maker extraordinaire’ is finding the Korean Peninsula tough going.
For all his claims of friendship with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, Pyongyang seems no closer to giving up its nuclear arsenal.
America's strategic partnership with South Korea is looking increasingly strained too.
Stephen Sackur interviews South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha.
Her country is currently out of step with both the US and Japan; how vulnerable does that make South Korea?
Tobacco giant Philip Morris International claims it wants a ‘smoke free world’ and the eventual phasing out of cigarettes, hailing its new smoke-free products as the future. But how plausible is that given that globally Philip Morris International still sells almost 800 billion cigarettes a year? The World Health Organisation says there are more than a billion smokers around the world, and that about seven million deaths per year ‘are the result of direct tobacco use’. HARDtalk is in PMI’s research laboratories in Switzerland to talk to the CEO, Andre Calantzopoulos. Are his claims of a smoke free future clever strategic marketing or corporate hypocrisy?
Zeinab Badawi is at the Presidential Palace in Khartoum where a historic power-sharing agreement has been signed between the military and civilians. General Mohamed Hamdan “Hemeti” Dagolo signed the agreement on behalf of the military. He has been described as the most powerful person in Sudan and is the leader of the heavily armed, well equipped Rapid Support Forces. They have been accused of killing or injuring hundreds of civilians during protests in June and July. Can the military be trusted to stick to the power sharing deal?
Photo: Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo Credit: Getty Images
Back in 2015, the nations of the world made a formal commitment to keep global warming below 2 degrees centigrade. So much for fine words; global greenhouse gas emissions are still rising. The data suggest the planet is warming at an alarming rate. What to do about it? Stephen Sackur interviews Roger Hallam, the co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, a movement dedicated to mass resistance and civil disobedience; how far are these climate rebels prepared to go?
When the Indian Government revoked the special autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir, it knew outrage would follow; which is why Delhi has the Muslim majority Himalayan territory in a form of lockdown. Stephen Sackur interviews the leader of the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement, Shah Faesal. Since recording this interview, there are now reports that Mr Shah has been detained by the authorities in Delhi and prevented from leaving the country.
(Photo: Shah Faesal via video link)
For many Americans, Donald Trump’s incendiary tweets aimed at immigrants show him to be a racist and white nationalist. But maybe we exaggerate the importance of Donald Trump’s contribution to America’s problem with race? Stephen Sackur interviews prize-winning writer on race and founder of the Anti-Racist Research Centre in Washington, Ibram Kendi. He says the roots of racism run deep and an honest assessment of their strength has barely begun. Can the US ever fix a problem so intimately bound up with its past?
(Photo: Ibram X Kendi. Credit: Getty Images)
The British Government’s Brexit strategy can be summed up in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s three-word phrase: ‘do or die’. As a deal between London and Brussels appears unlikely, what about the alternative? Stephen Sackur interviews Iain Duncan Smith, former Conservative party leader and ardent Brexiteer. Can Prime Minister Johnson deliver a no-deal exit? And what would it mean for Britain’s politics and economy?
(Photo: Iain Duncan Smith MP, on the Andrew Marr show)
Ireland is bracing itself for the scariest of Halloween nightmares. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to take the UK out of the EU on October the 31st, come what may. That may mean a no deal Brexit, with potentially damaging economic consequences for the UK, but also for EU nations, most particularly Ireland. Stephen Sackur interviews Neale Richmond, Chair of the Irish Senate’s Brexit Committee. Can Ireland prevent itself becoming the collateral damage in a Brussels London showdown?
(Photo: Neale Richmond)
Meteorologists at the UN say the last four years were globally the hottest on record. Sean Ley talks to one of Australia's most eminent scientists who argues that current warming is 'unparalleled' in 2,000 years. Climate change, he says is happening 30 times faster than the melting of the ice at the last Ice Age. Is the political will to save the planet melting too?
(Photo: Prof Tim Flannery in the Hardtalk studio)
The world’s most pressing and potentially dangerous strategic confrontation is playing out in the narrow waterway between Iran and Arabia. The United states is leading efforts to isolate the Government in Tehran. Iran is responding with defiance despite severe economic disruption. Former British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, is a veteran of western diplomatic engagement with Iran. How high is the risk of a calamitous conflict?
(Photo: Jack Straw in the Hardtalk studio)
Hong Kong is in uproar. Each weekend for the last two months, thousands of people have taken to the streets. Alvin Yueng, who leads the Civic Party shares their fears.
(Photo: Alvin Yeung Ngok-Kiu, of Civic Party. Credit: Dickson Lee/South China Morning Post/Getty Images)
There are some human experiences which most of us find it very hard to get our heads around. Stephen Sackur speaks to Albert Woodfox, who experienced the unimaginable torment of more than four decades in solitary confinement, in a tiny cell in one of America’s most notorious prisons. He was the victim of ingrained racism and brutality inside America’s system of criminal justice. He is now a free man, but what does freedom really mean, after everything he’s been through?
(Photo: Albert Woodfox, a former member of the Black Panthers, who was put in solitary confinement at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Credit: Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images)
How far can artists and their work change the world? Can artistic endeavour lead to concrete action to mitigate the impact of global warming, or is this fanciful? Zeinab Badawi is at the Tate Modern in London, interviewing award-winning Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson about his new exhibition and why he believes art can be a force for good in the world.
Image: Olafur Eliasson (Credit: Neil Hall/EPA)
Sarah Montague speaks to Raghuram Rajan, until 2016 the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. He says “capitalism is under threat” and if world leaders want to save liberal democracies from a surge in populism they need to give more power to local communities and away from big governments and big businesses. When he left his job as Governor of India’s central bank, he said it was “better to be a doer than an adviser”. Now he is being talked of as one of the front-runners to be the next Governor of the Bank of England. Would he rather do that job than advise in another?
Have voters in Istanbul dealt a serious blow to Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan? They’ve elected the opposition to the Mayor's office. A city of 16 million, it was the President's power base. Zeinab Badawi talks to the city’s new Mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu.
Image: Ekrem Imamoglu (Credit: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)
HARDtalk’s Zeinab Badawi is in New York, for a rare interview with the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who is attending high level talks at the UN. Hostilities between Iran and the US are at a historic high; recently, President Trump said he was ‘ten minutes away from war with Tehran’. Could the two countries stumble into a war? And is Iran raising the stakes in the Persian Gulf after Washington tore up the nuclear deal last year?
Image: Mohammad Javad Zarif (Credit: Khalid Al-Mousily/Reuters)
Stephen Sackur interviews Sir Angus Deaton, a British-American economist and academic. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics (2015) for his analysis of consumption, poverty, and welfare. He has just launched the Deaton Review with the Institute for Fiscal Studies; a five-year academic investigation into inequalities in the UK, the largest ever conducted. What can Western democracies do to tame capitalism and reduce its worst effects?
Image: Sir Angus Deaton (Credit: Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Can a new government transform Greece's fortunes? HARDtalk's Zeinab Badawi speaks exclusively to the new Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Athens. After the centre-right New Democracy party won the elections, he takes over a country traumatised and impoverished by a decade of economic austerity. In his first interview with the international broadcast media since his decisive victory over the populist Syriza party, Zeinab Badawi asks Prime Minister Mitsotakis whether he can deliver on his campaign promises.
(Photo:: Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Credit: Milos Bacanski/Getty Images)
Stephen Sackur speaks to Lady Hale, President of the UK Supreme Court. The British legal system has long enjoyed an international reputation for independence, integrity and efficiency. But senior judges, lawyers and police officers are now voicing concern about a judicial system close to breaking point. Is one of the world’s most admired justice systems failing the people it is supposed to serve?
Image: Lady Hale (Credit: UK Supreme Court/PA Wire)
What kind of country will emerge from the Brexit mess? HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Sir John Major, former British Prime Minister. Within weeks the UK's Conservative party will have a new leader and Britain a new prime minister. As with so much in UK politics the battle between Boris Johnson and Jeremy hunt boils down to Brexit; who do Tories believe is better equipped to navigate the political and constitutional crisis that looms as the departure date of October 31st draws near?
Image: John Major (Credit: Carl Court/Getty Images)
It's impossible to predict Donald Trump's policy-making and diplomacy. He seeks neither consistency, nor consensus - as is obvious in his approach to China, North Korea, Iran and other challenges at home and abroad. Stephen Sackur speaks to Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida - a key Trump ally back in 2016, who has since parted company with the President on some of his most controversial policies. How effective and how sustainable is the Trump presidency?
(Photo: US Senator Rick Scott speaks during Concordia Americas Summit, in Bogota, Colombia, 2019. Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters)
Doped for decades, East German athletes are still searching for truth and justice. When the infamous Berlin Wall was breached 30 years ago, the darkest secrets of the East German police state were soon exposed. Among them was the systematic, coercive administration of performance-enhancing drugs to thousands of young athletes. It was meant to make them into world beaters, regardless of any damage to their health. Stephen Sackur talks to the former East German sprinter Ines Geipel about the abuse she and others were subjected to in what is now known as the East German doping scandal.
(Photo: Former East German sprinter Ines Geipel)
Sarah Montague speaks to actor and activist Michael Sheen. Known around the world for his film, television and theatre work, Michael Sheen made his name for his uncanny ability to portray other people, such as Tony Blair, Brian Clough and David Frost. These roles catapulted him into a life far from his home in Port Talbot in South Wales. But it was acting that also brought him back there, where he is now immersed in tackling some of the problems that face a poor community: poverty, debt and homelessness. How does he straddle such contrasting worlds?
(Photo: Michael Sheen attending the premiere of Good Omens at the Odeon Luxe Leicester Square, London. Credit: PA MEDIA)
Brexit - not just an event, now a whole political movement. At the end of May, with its leader Nigel Farage at the helm, the Brexit Party swept the board in the European Parliament elections, demeaning the UK’s governing Conservative Party. Five years ago, the same triumph for Nigel Farage, albeit leading a party with a different name. Shaun Ley interviews Richard Tice, chairman of Mr Farage’s party and one of its MEPs. With many experts predicting a costly, bitter departure from the European Union, did the triumph of the Brexit Party bring the United Kingdom and its politics into discredit?
Image: Richard Tice (Credit: Andy Rain/European Photopress Agency)
How dangerous is the superpower rivalry in technology and information? Currently there’s much focus on the tensions between the US and China over the Chinese tech giant Huawei. Soon 5G networks will be a critical part of our world in transportation, power supply, payment systems and so much more. Washington says the Chinese can’t be trusted because they may use their technology infrastructure for spying. Beijing says this is nonsense. HARDtalk's Zeinab Badawi talks to the US top official on cyber information and security, Robert Strayer. He’s on a mission to dissuade Europeans from doing business with Huawei. But is Washington losing the cyberwar?
Image: Robert Strayer (Credit: Shawn Thew/EPA)
How much responsibility should team Obama take for the course American politics has taken since they left centre-stage? HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Valerie Jarrett, former advisor to President Obama. It is one of the great puzzles of American politics: how voters could make history by putting Barack Obama in the White House – twice – and then elect Donald Trump as his successor. Valerie Jarrett is a close friend and adviser to Barack and Michelle Obama from early days in Chicago, all the way through the White House years. How will historians view the Obama legacy?
Is Australia still a country wrestling with its identity? HARDtalk’s Zeinab Badawi speaks to Australian writer Thomas Keneally. He's the author of more than 30 novels including Schindler’s Ark, which won him the Booker Prize and was turned into an Oscar winning film. Much of his writing addresses the themes of culture and identity, and Australia’s modern and ancient heritage.
There is something special about the human heart. We live with, and by, its constant beat. We invest it with our deepest feelings. So naturally we reserve something like reverence for the surgeons who try to fix them when they are broken. Samer Nashef has chosen to write with honesty about the highs, lows and limitations of life and death surgery. He spoke to Hardtalk's Stephen Sackur at the Hay literary festival in Wales.
Political power inside the European Union is no longer going to be easily stitched up between the two big blocks of centre left and centre right.
After last month’s European parliamentary election, Europe's Green party will wield significant influence in the next round of EU deal making.
Hardtalk speaks to the Green candidate for Commission President, Dutch MEP Bas Eickhout, and asks him how much the Greens are prepared to compromise.
Image: Bas Eickhout (Credit: Marcel van Hoorn/European Photopress Agency)
As Donald Trump and family revel in the pomp and circumstance of a state visit to London, his staunchest political opponents continue to plot a pathway to impeachment. Stephen Sackur interviews Tom Steyer, a Californian hedge fund billionaire turned deep-pocketed backer of liberal causes, who is funding much of that effort. His focus was climate change, now its impeachment. He’s a powerful force in the Democratic Party – but is he in danger of pushing the party in the wrong direction?
Image: Tom Steyer (Credit: Stephen Lam/Reuters)
Hardtalk speaks to human rights activist Iyad El-Baghdadi. Six months after the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul three of Khashoggi’s friends and associates received warnings that their lives could be in danger. The original source was the CIA. One of those warned is Iyad El-Baghdadi, a long-time critic of Arab authoritarian regimes, who lives in political asylum in Norway using social media to challenge what he calls the Arab Tyrants. After the demise of the Arab Spring is his a lost cause ?
In Kenya, hope and despair live side by side. There is economic growth, technological transformation and a youthful population hungry for opportunity. There is also grinding poverty, inequality and endemic corruption. HARDtalk's Stephen Sackur speaks to one of Kenya’s most popular musicians – Eric Wainaina. His music addresses issues like corruption but how political is he prepared to be?
Stephen Sackur talks to renowned Libyan writer Hisham Matar. His writing has explored the impact of having a father ‘disappeared’ by the Gaddafi regime. How hard is it to move on?
Image: Hisham Matar in Rome in 2017 (Credit: Camilla Morandi - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Julie Hambleton, founder of Justice for the 21. In November 1974 the IRA bombed two pubs in Birmingham and murdered twenty one people. More than forty four years later the inquest into those deaths was reopened, attended by the families of the victims, including Julie Hambleton, who lost her sister Maxine. During the hearings one witness, a convicted former IRA man, named four alleged perpetrators; but justice in this terrible case has never been done. Is it now too late to get to the truth?
Image: Julie Hambleton (Credit: Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)
The movement’s rhetoric is unbending, but do the Palestinian people long for new ideas? Stephen Sackur interviews Ghazi Hamad, a spokesman for Hamas. The surge in Israeli-Palestinian violence in Gaza earlier this month was relatively short-lived, and the status-quo remains intact. But Hamas’s internal grip on Gaza is threatened by rising economic discontent and the Trump Administration will soon unveil a peace plan built on economic incentives for the Palestinian people. Could change be afoot?
How does the sporting notion of fairness cope with the complexities of gender identity? HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to former champion British swimmer turned sports commentator Sharron Davies. Elite level sport is ruthlessly competitive. The best male and female athletes push hard against their physical limits in the quest for marginal gains. But what happens when athletes change gender - in particular when individuals born biologically male transition to female after puberty. Should they be allowed to compete as women?
By the time Vladimir Putin’s current presidential term ends he will have dominated Russian politics for a quarter century and already there’s talk of manoeuvres to ensure his grip on power is maintained beyond 2024. He is surely the world’s greatest exponent of strong-man rule. Grigory Yavlinsky, the leader of Russia's opposition Yabloko Party has spent the Putin years in thankless, fruitless opposition. Why has his brand of liberal economics and political reform failed to take root and provide a convincing alternative to Putin's cocktail of authoritarianism and nationalism?
(Photo: Grigory Yavlinsky, the leader of Russia's opposition Yabloko Party in the Hardtalk studio)
When we were kids many of us dreamed of being a professional footballer, a star of the world’s most popular game with adulation and riches on tap. For a tiny few the dream comes true, but then reality bites. Professional sport is a brutal business that can chew up young lives. HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Tony Adams, former Arsenal and England footballer, who fought his own battles with addiction and mental illness and went on to help other top players do the same. Is elite sport honest about the vulnerability of its stars?
Image: Tony Adams at the 2018 Edinburgh International Book Festival (Credit: Simone Padovani/Awakening/Getty Images)
Does the debate on trans rights pose a problem for the gay liberation movement? HARDtalk's Sarah Montague speaks to the CEO of Stonewall, Ruth Hunt. Stonewall was founded 30 years ago to campaign for gay and lesbian rights. When Ruth Hunt became its chief executive, she extended its work to include the transgender community. But many Stonewall members have been upset at the line the leadership has taken on gender recognition – that anyone can declare themselves to be male or female – and at their refusal to share a platform with anyone who disagrees.
Confident that the socialist regime in Venezuela was in its death throes, the opposition led by Juan Guaido won the backing of elements within the armed forces and appeared to be spearheading a de facto coup d’etat. They seem to have miscalculated. Nicolas Maduro faced down the putsch and continues to occupy the presidential palace. Vanessa Neumann is a member of the diplomatic team backing Juan Guaido’s claim to power. How damaging are the mistakes of the opposition?
Britain’s top diplomat, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, is at the end of a five-nation tour of Africa aimed at persuading the continent and the wider world that post-Brexit Britain can and will play a pivotal global role. So HARDtalk has come to Nairobi to talk to Mr Hunt at the end of his latest road trip. If and when the current Brexit chaos comes to an end, how will Britain stack up as a source of global power and influence?
Image: Jeremy Hunt (Credit: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images)
Is China becoming more authoritarian under President Xi JinPing? HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Victor Gao, a well-connected think tank analyst in Beijing who once worked as an interpreter for Deng Xiao Ping. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Chinese government’s suppression of the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. Since then China has undergone a remarkable economic transformation, but what’s happened to the ideological outlook and strategic vision of the country’s Communist party leaders?
HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Preet Bharara, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. The Mueller Report is out and to noone’s surprise it hasn’t settled the bitter arguments about whether President Trump committed crimes worthy of impeachment. In fact it’s raised new questions about the resilience and integrity of the judicial process. Preet Bharara was one of America's most powerful federal prosecutors until Mr Trump fired him in 2017. He's written a book about Doing Justice - but is America consistently falling short?
(Photo: Preet Bharara. Credit: Mike Segar/Reuters)
What will it take to bring peace to Afghanistan? HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to President Ghani’s Peace Envoy Mohammad Umer Daudzai. Just days ago, hopes were high that a peace deal to end Afghanistan’s long war might be in sight. Talks involving the US, the Taliban and Afghan Government representatives were to take place in Qatar. But they didn’t happen. The Taliban objected to the delegation coming from Kabul – and a familiar cycle of recrimination and violence resumed.
Can Sudan make the transition to a democratic government? Zeinab Badawi speaks to the head of the military council running the country, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. Events have moved at breath-taking speed in Sudan in recent days. Omar al-Bashir is no longer president and is in prison along with his closest associates. And a new military-led council is running the country while protesters continue to call for civilian-led government. So what next for Sudan and how long does General Burhan intend on staying in power?
Image: Lt Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (Credit: European Photopress Agency)
Can the Democratic Republic of Congo set itself on a path of peace and reconciliation? HARDtalk’s Zeinab Badawi speaks to opposition politician and presidential election candidate Martin Fayulu. Last December's landmark elections ended 18 years of divisive rule by Joseph Kabila when Felix Tshisekedi was declared the winner. But Mr Fayulu claims he was in fact the victor and the presidency was stolen from him. Is Mr Kabila still controlling the DRC - a giant country ravaged by war, poverty and disease - behind the scenes?
Image: Martin Fayulu (Credit: Kenny Katombe/Reuters)
Nobel Literature laureate and Nigerian professor Wole Soyinka is one of the giants of African and world literature, and a passionate advocate and campaigner for human rights. His country recently held a general election which saw the incumbent Muhammadu Buhari re-elected as president. As Africa’s most populous country, does he believe Nigeria can lead the continent in the 21st century?
Image: Wole Soyinka (Credit: Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images)
Does Germany need to reboot its economic model? HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur is in Berlin for an exclusive interview with Germany's Vice Chancellor and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz. 30 years after unification, Germany is Europe's economic powerhouse - but could it be running out of gas? Growth is down, so are exports. Critics point to an economy dangerously reliant on the technologies of the past, rather than the future. Brexit tensions and economic nationalism in the US and China could be dampening the growth prospects of big exporters like Germany.
Image: Olaf Scholz (Credit: Adam Berry/European Photopress Agency)
How soon can Sudan become a democracy? HARDtalk’s Zeinab Badawi speaks to Sudanese politician Ghazi Salahuddin Atabani, a former ally of deposed president Omer El Bashir - now a member of the opposition. Events have moved at breath taking speed in Sudan in the past few days. And a new military-led council is running the country. It says it will stay in place for two years. But the African Union is demanding it hand over to a transitional civilian administration in days and the protesters say they won’t give up until that happens. The demonstrations have been led by young professionals who’ve made it clear they want to severe links with Sudan’s military and Islamist past.
Every so often a writer emerges with a voice so original, distinctive and strong that it is heard far beyond the confines of the book buying public. HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Edouard Louis, who produced a raw, harrowing account of his own upbringing in a working class town in the north of France five years ago. Since then, he has written two more books drawn from his own experience of class, discrimination and violence in a fractured France. It’s tempting to see him as the voice of the gilets jaunes generation – is anger the fuel that propels him?
Image: Edouard Louis (Credit: Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images)
US-Iranian journalist Jason Rezaian was working for the Washington Post in Tehran when he was arrested in July 2014. He was accused of spying for the CIA, tried and convicted on vague charges. He was held for 544 days before a deal was done to release him in 2016. Three years after his release how is he coping with the effects of his imprisonment? Jason Rezaian is now banned from Iran for life but what does he think of the Trump administration's policy toward Iran now that it has labelled Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organisation? He talks to Shaun Ley.
Image: Jason Rezaian (Credit: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
50 years on, what was the significance of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon? HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur is in Florida to speak to one of the crew members of the Apollo 11 mission. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of one of the most remarkable feats of exploration in the history of humankind, which landed men on the moon. While Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were setting foot on the moon’s surface, Michael Collins was piloting the command module which got them all home.
Image: Michael Collins (Credit: Getty Images)
Stephen Sackur speaks to former US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, who worked as a top ranking diplomat for three decades, serving five US presidents. The United States of America is still the most powerful nation on earth but the way it’s perceived by friends and rivals has changed radically in a generation. At the end of the Cold War American supremacy was unchallenged and Washington’s commitment to multilateral global engagement was unquestioned. Are we now in a very different era? Is the US losing its capacity to lead?
Zeinab Badawi is in Hong Kong to speak to Bernard Chan who sits on the territory’s Executive Council. There have been complaints by pro-democracy activists that Beijing is increasing its control of the region and eroding its freedoms in contravention of the 1997 handover agreement between Britain and China. How much autonomy does Hong Kong really enjoy and what does the situation there tell us about the direction that China as a whole is moving?
Can literature help bridge America's racial divide? HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Angie Thomas, a writer whose first novel, The Hate U Give, electrified America with its unflinching portrayal of a teenage black girl confronting police violence, inner city gang culture and a society rooted in discrimination. When it comes to issues of race and racism, the gap between America’s promise of equality and the reality of entrenched inequality seems depressingly wide. Can hope win out over fear and hate?
Image: Angie Thomas (Credit: Getty Images)
Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence that the President colluded with the Russians during the 2016 presidential election. Even though Mueller left open the question of obstruction of justice the President is claiming exoneration. George Papadopoulos was the first Trump campaign member to be convicted as a result of the Mueller probe. Are we any closer to the truth?
(Photo: George Papadopoulos. Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
MPs are currently trying to find a Brexit consensus in defiance of the wishes of Prime Minister May. How close to breaking point is Britain’s political system?
Image: Kenneth Clarke (Credit: UK Parliament)
HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is 70 years old this year, but despite its achievements and longevity, celebrations are muted. That’s because NATO's cohesion and long-term viability are being questioned as never before. Is the Secretary General simply papering over the organisation’s widening cracks?
Image: Jens Stoltenberg (Credit: European Photopress Agency)
Is the World Bank braced for turbulence ahead? HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to the bank's interim President Kristalina Georgieva. For more than seven decades, the World Bank has been a pillar of international consensus forged in Washington – where ‘rich world’ money has been funnelled into poorer nations prepared to play by its rules. But maybe the consensus is breaking down. The World Bank is about to get a new Trump-nominated president who has been sharply critical of its past activities.
(Photo: Kristalina Georgieva. Credit: Stephanie Lecocq/European Photopress Agency)
Is UK policing fit for purpose? Stephen Sackur speaks to Michael Fuller, former chief constable of Kent police, and the only black Briton to have run one of the country’s regional forces. There has been an alarming rise in knife crime in the UK and this prompted a bout of soul searching about the causes and responses. Many of the questions focus on the police. Are they doing an effective job? How well do they handle the challenges of policing in disadvantaged and minority communities?
(Photo: Michael Fuller, former chief constable of Kent police
Is there a way out of Venezuela’s protracted agony? Stephen Sackur speaks to Juan Andres Mejia, Deputy of Venezuela’s Voluntad Popular party. For millions of Venezuelans every day is a struggle for survival. This is an oil rich country where the shops are empty, the power is out and healthcare is collapsing. And politics offers little hope of salvation. The Maduro Government is clinging to the trappings of power while the country’s other self-proclaimed president Juan Guaido leads mass protests against him. Juan Andres Mejia is one of Guaido’s key allies in the Venezuelan parliament. Is there a way out of Venezuela’s protracted agony?
(Photo: Juan Andres Mejia. Credit: Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images)
Stephen Sackur speaks to Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, a prize-winning Israeli novelist who brings a trained psychologist’s eye to compelling stories set in her home country. Hers is a world of moral ambiguity where truth, memory, right and wrong aren't necessarily what they seem. Does her work tell us something important about the Israeli psyche?
Mental health is not easy to talk about, least of all for young men, so often brought up to regard emotional vulnerability as weakness. In a special edition of HARDtalk filmed in the BBC’s Radio Theatre, Stephen Sackur speaks to Stephen Manderson who is better known as the British rapper Professor Green. He has been very honest about his own struggles with mental health issues and is determined to break the taboos around the subject. Can we all learn from Professor Green?
(Photo: British rapper Professor Green)
Theresa May’s European parliamentary elections could be a defining moment in the struggle for the EU's future; a continent wide clash between the forces of liberalism and populism exists - perhaps best personified by French President Emmanuel Macron up against Hungary's Viktor Orban. HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Italy’s former centre-left Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. Politically he’s with Macron, but his country is led by populists sympathetic to Viktor Orban. Whose message is resonating with European voters?
Image: Paolo Gentiloni (Credit: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images)
As the political debate over Brexit grows ever more polarised in the UK exposing deep fractures within the political parties, questions are also being asked about the how the machinery of government is working. Lord Ricketts, a former top diplomat, and national security adviser has very publicly condemned the current government’s handling of Brexit negotiations describing them as a fiasco and expressing the fear that Brexit will leave Britain permanently and significantly weakened. This public airing of views has created the impression that the supposedly apolitical civil service, particularly the foreign office, is institutionally and temperamentally opposed to Brexit – a policy which was of course approved by a national referendum in 2016. Does this represent a real problem in Britain’s democracy and in the relationship between the people and the government?
Is President Putin crushing press freedom in Russia? Since coming to power nearly 20 years ago, Vladimir Putin has been accused of gradually taking control of the media in Russia, and silencing those who would criticise him. Galina Timchenko was editor of Lentu.Ru until she was fired – she claims as a result of pressure from the Kremlin. She left Russia and with some of her former colleagues set up another news organisation - Meduza – in exile, in Latvia. It reaches millions of Russians. But what does her self-imposed exile say about media freedom in Russia? And should she have stayed to defend her journalism there?
Can Hungary's ruling party win Europe’s battle of ideas? HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur is in Budapest to speak to the Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó. Hungary is led by a nationalist, populist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who believes his opposition to immigration and his defence of so called Christian values can transform not just Hungary but the whole of the European Union.
Image: Péter Szijjártó (Credit: Robert Ghement/European Photopress Agency)
Does comedy have the power to transcend borders, religions and politics and can it build bridges between different communities who may mistrust and misunderstand one another? HARDtalk’s Zeinab Badawi speaks to one guest that thinks so. He is one of the Arab world’s most popular comedians- Nemr Abou Nassar. Brought up in the USA and Lebanon, he quit his job as an insurance broker to become a stand-up comic. He believes humour can change the world. But does he risk promoting misunderstanding and perpetuating stereotypes through his comedy?
What makes a great photograph? Stephen Sackur speaks to one of the great women pioneers of photo journalism, Marilyn Stafford. She was born in the United States but moved to Paris where she became the protégé of the brilliant Henri Cartier-Bresson. Like him, Stafford loved to capture intimate portraits of ordinary people. She has photographed everything from refugees fleeing war to models on the fashion catwalks. Now at 93 her work is being admired by a new generation.
Is there any political or diplomatic initiative capable of saving Yemen? The current limited ceasefire in Yemen between the warring parties has barely alleviated the suffering of the country’s people. The situation is the world’s worst humanitarian disaster and millions of people are in dire need of food and medical assistance. HARDtalk's Stephen Sackur speaks to Yemen’s foreign minister Khaled Alyemany.
Is Kenya's ruling political partnership in danger of collapse? Kenya’s big ambitions to be the economic and infrastructure powerhouse of East Africa cannot be truly realised without political stability. HARDtalk's Stephen Sackur talks to the country's Deputy President William Ruto about fragmentation and factionalism at the top of Kenyan politics.
Image: William Ruto (Credit: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)
Stephen Sackur is in Florida to speak to Cameron Kasky, who survived the Parkland School shooting in February 2018 and went on to co-found the March for our Lives movement. This organisation was committed to taking on America’s gun lobby and organised a demonstration in Washington D.C. that was attended by hundreds of thousands of people. But one year after the attack, has anything changed?
Image: Cameron Kasky (Credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for March For Our Lives)
What draws the novelist to such dark visions of femininity? Sarah Montague speaks to Leila Slimani, one of France’s most famous, and most controversial, authors. Her first book Adele, just published in English, shocked readers for breaking taboos about women and sex addiction. Infanticide is the subject of her second novel, Lullaby, which became a publishing sensation and has been translated into 40 languages.
(Photo: Leila Slimani in the Hardtalk studio)
Ireland's former Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, negotiated the Belfast Agreement which brought peace to Northern Ireland. Sarah Montague asks if Brexit is a threat to that peace.
Image: Bertie Ahern (Credit: Getty Images)
Up until last month, Christian Zerpa was a Justice on Venezuela’s Supreme Court; now he is a high-profile defector from the Maduro regime. With two men claiming to be the country’s President and protestors on the streets, Stephen Sackur asks: is Venezuela's socialist revolution in its death throes?
Is Florida the state where the American dream turned sour? HARDtalk's Stephen Sackur talks to the writer Carl Hiaasen whose hugely popular newspaper columns and darkly comic novels cast a jaundiced eye on the Sunshine State where he was born and continues to live. His writing is fueled by anger - at rotten politics, crooked business and environmental vandalism.
Laura Boldrini is a centre-left Italian politician. Until last year she was the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, the Italian Parliament’s lower chamber. She has received many online threats wishing her dead or raped. Zeinab Badawi asks the Sicilian MP about her experiences, and what her current situation tells us about the state of politics in Italy and Europe’s changing mood.
(Photo: Laura Boldrini. Credit: European Photopress Agency)