News in Brief 24 August 2016 (PM)

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Aftermath of an earthquake. Photo: UNICEF/Willy Castellano (file)

Dozens killed by earthquakes in Italy and Myanmar: UN offers support

Earthquakes on Wednesday in Italy and Myanmar have left dozens dead and hundreds injured, according to news reports.

In a statement, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his condolences and said he was "saddened by the reports of lives lost and damage caused".

He said the UN was standing by to offer support if requested by the two governments.

At least 120 have been killed in central Italy by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake, and more than 360 are injured, according to the Italian Prime Minister.

The 6.8 magnitude earthquake in Myanmar killed at least three and damaged dozens of ancient pagodas, according to reports.

Here’s UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric.

"The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is in contact with the national authorities and continues to closely monitor both situations. Along with our partners, we stand ready to support the national authorities and local organizations should any humanitarian support be needed."

"Dramatically shrinking space" for civil society dialogue in China: UN expert

There is a "dramatically shrinking space" for discussion over increasing levels of personal freedom in China, according to an independent UN expert.

Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, was speaking in Beijing at a press conference marking the end of his visit to China.

He said there was a "pincer-movement" on the part of authorities to crack down on individual expression and meaningful accountability mechanisms needed to be put in place to accompany "huge progress in poverty alleviation".

"What we see is a dramatically shrinking space for civil society actions which would want to facilitate a discussion of government policies with a view to trying to adjust or adapt them, rather than simply accepting what has been determined from the top."

Countries urged to continue search for evidence in death of former UN chief

UN Member States have been urged to continue searching for new evidence into exactly how a plane crashed over Central Africa in 1961, killing then Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjöld.

The current UN chief, Ban Ki-moon, released a so-called follow up note on Wednesday to a 2015 report of the Independent Panel of Experts appointed to look into the matter by the General Assembly.

Mr Ban's office asked Belgium, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States for new information regarding Mr Hammarskjöld's tragic death, but none emerged.

There has been speculation for many years that the plane may have been shot down deliberately.

Here's Stéphane Dujarric again.

"The Secretary-General has stated previously that the most likely source of any additional material would be the files and records of Member States. To this end, he has again urged all Member States to continue to search for and disclose relevant documents and information. Ultimately, it is up to the General Assembly of the Member States to decide on any further action."

Mr Hammarskjöld was the UN's second Secretary-General, and was memorialized by US President Kennedy as "the greatest statesman of our century."

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 2’56″

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