The government in Turkey has announced plans to let public school students take Kurdish language classes. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the move in Parliament Tuesday. He called it an historic step. Turkey has long banned the teaching of Kurdish in public schools. But, the government has permitted Kurdish-language schools and television broadcasts. Turkey has been under pressure from the European Union to ease restrictions on the Kurdish language. Turkey is seeking to join the E.U.
Spain is paying more to borrow money now than it has paid since it started using the euro thirteen years ago. European governments agreed recently to a one hundred twenty-five billion dollar rescue loan for Spanish banks. The Fitch financial services have reduced the credit ratings of eighteen Spanish banks. Long-term interest rates for Spain are near seven percent. Italy's borrowing costs have also increased sharply.
Tens of thousands of Russians have joined a demonstration in Moscow to protest the return of Vladimir Putin as Russia's president. The government had said the protest was legal, but Russian officials ordered several of its leaders to appear for questioning. The demonstration is the first the opposition has called since Mr. Putin took office on May seventh. The Russian president has increased measures to stop dissent. A VOA reporter estimated the marching crowd at tens of thousands. A protest leader placed the number at one hundred thousand. Police said it was eighteen thousand. The reporter said the peaceful protest included nationalists, communists and liberals. He said thousands of police were deployed.
You are listening to the news in VOA Special English.
Burmese state media say twenty-one people have been killed in the western state of Rakhine. Rights groups say they fear the number of dead may be much higher. They are urging Burma's government to do more to stop the clashes between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and ethnic Rohingya Muslims. Burmese President Dan San has deployed army troops and declared emergency rule in Rakhine. Hundreds of Rohingyas have attempted to flee to Bangladesh by boat to escape the violence. But, the government in Bangladesh has refused to let them enter. Officials say it is not in the best interests of Bangladesh to let the Rohingyas stay.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the use of NATO airstrikes in civilian areas is totally banned even when coalition forces are under attack. Mr. Karzai said Tuesday the bombing of civilian homes is not permitted for any reason. A day earlier, NATO officials announced an agreement to restrict airstrikes in civilian areas. The announcement followed a deadly airstrike last week. Afghan officials said the attack killed eighteen civilians. Monday, the deputy commander of American forces in Afghanistan said troops may still call for airstrikes to defend themselves.
Members of the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Africa Media Initiative met Friday with the Ethiopian Communications Minister Bereket Simon. The groups called for the release of eight reporters jailed in Ethiopia and they say the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has jailed more reporters than any African nation except Eritrea. The Committee to Protect Journalists says Ethiopia is holding three Ethiopian reporters and two Swedish reporters on charges of anti-government plots and terrorism. All five reporters have denied wrongdoing. The CPJ representative in Nairobi, Tom Rhodes, rejected the charges.
None of us thought, for example, that these two Swedish journalists, Martin [Shibbye] and Johan [Perrson], would be detained for this long, and yet they have been, which makes us think that... that they might be there for the long haul. Independent publishers and broadcasters say the country's anti-terrorism law has had a harmful effect on press freedom. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that Ethiopian officials say the law is not used to restrict speech but helps Ethiopians enjoy their constitutional rights. Under the law, reporters who have been critical of the government face long jail sentences.
Eskinder Nega, who's quite an active voice in Ethiopia and...he's facing a life sentence. And that's really a great shame not only for Eskinder but also for the Ethiopian people. He...He sort of represents a voice that is struggling to push for democracy. And to have these kinds of selfless voices silenced is really a tragedy.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said Ethiopia's government expressed support for educational events to make independent media stronger. Last month, a VOA reporter was arrested and held overnight in Addis Ababa on charges of illegal reporting. I'm Steve Ember.
And now briefly, here again is the major news for this hour.
The United States says it is concerned about reports that Russia is sending attack helicopters to Syria. Tens of thousands of Russians have joined a demonstration in Moscow to protest the return of Vladimir Putin as president. And, Burmese media say twenty-one people have been killed in clashes in the western state of Rakin
And, that's the news in VOA Special English, coming to you from Washington.