Donors Pledge $4.4 Billion in Aid for Syria and Neighboring Countries
International donors have pledged $4.4 billion dollars in humanitarian aid for Syria and neighboring countries that have sheltered refugees this year.
But the pledges are significantly less than the more than $7 billion the United Nations is seeking.
U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs chief Mark Lowcock said the pledges made at an international donor conference in Brussels are a "good start." He said that based on previous years he expects more money will come in.
Lowcock said several major donors, including the United States, have not yet confirmed their pledges. He said the United States has been providing more than $1 billion a year to Syria and the region in recent years.
Lowcock said the additional money for 2019 is needed for humanitarian purposes in Syria and to assist refugees in nearby countries.
Some 450,000 people have been killed in Syria since President Bashar al-Assad's 2011 crackdown on protestors calling for his ouster.
White House Rejects Claim of U.S. Press Freedom Downgrade
The White House is rejecting accusations President Donald Trump and his administration are hampering freedom of the press in the United States.
A media watchdog and advocacy group has dropped the United States two places to 45th in its annual press freedom rankings, blaming Trump’s repeated verbal attacks on reporters, publications and TV news networks.
“I think we’re one of the most accessible administrations that we’ve seen in decades,” replied White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at Wednesday’s briefing just hours after the release of the Reporters Without Borders 2018 World Press Freedom Index.
“I think by my mere presence of standing up here and taking your questions unvetted is a pretty good example of freedom of the press and I think it’s ridiculous to suggest otherwise,” Huckabee Sanders said, responding to a question from VOA.
The response did not satisfy the chief White House correspondent for CNN, which has been repeatedly singled out by the president as a purveyor of “fake news.”
Jim Acosta, who sits in the front row for the White House press briefings, asked Huckabee Sanders whether she was trying to say, in response to VOA’s question, whether the Trump administration was a champion of the free press.
“We support a free press, but we also support a fair press,” replied Huckabee Sanders. “And I think that those things should go hand in hand and there’s a certain responsibility by the press to report accurate information.”
The press secretary then complained she frequently finds herself “taking your questions in a tone that’s completely unnecessary, unneeded and frankly doesn’t help further the conversation or help the American people get any more information in a better way which is your job and my job.”