News in Brief 30 March 2017 (PM)

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Harvesting rice in Viet Nam. Global rice consumption trends are rising. Photo: FAO/Hoang Dinh Nam

FAO deal promotes sustainable rice production

A partnership between the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) aims to support the sustainable production of a staple food enjoyed by millions each day.

The agreement, signed on Thursday, will enhance rice farming, including by helping governments to implement policies that benefit small-scale farmers, especially women.

Over three million people across the globe eat rice every day, according to Maria Helena Semedo, a senior official with FAO.

And while rice consumption is growing in many countries, the agency says production is vulnerable to droughts, floods and other impacts of climate change.

Ms Semedo added that "ensuring sustainable rice production is a key contribution to the global goal of ending hunger."

Jailed Eritrean journalist wins UN press freedom prize

An imprisoned Eritrean-born journalist whose current whereabouts are not known has won a UN-backed award that celebrates freedom of the press.

Dawit Isaak was on Thursday announced as the recipient of the 2017 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.

The annual award was created 20 years ago by the Executive Board of UN cultural agency, UNESCO.

It was named in honour of Colombian journalist Guillermo Cano Isaza who was assassinated in December 1986.

Mr Isaak, this year's recipient, was known for his critical and insightful reporting, according to UNESCO.

He was arrested in a media crackdown in Eritrea in September 2001.

The journalist, who is also a citizen of Sweden, was last heard from in 2005.

His present location is unknown.

US lawmakers urged to curb trend to curtail freedom of assembly

Lawmakers in the United States are being urged to stop what two UN human rights experts have characterized as an "alarming trend" to curb freedom of peaceful assembly and expression.

They said that since the presidential elections in November, lawmakers in at least 19 states have proposed legislation that criminalizes peaceful protests.

If the bills become law, the experts said they would "severely infringe upon the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly in ways that are incompatible with US obligations under international human rights law and with First Amendment protections."

The First Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees several freedoms, including the right to assemble.

The experts, who were appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, also stressed that legislators should be mindful of the "important role" that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly has played in the history of American democracy and the fight for civil rights.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 2'50"

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