TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu detained at Tirupati airport, stages sit-in protest


The Telugu Desam Party chief sat down on the airport lounge floor and demanded to know why he was being prevented from going to Tirupati and Chittoor.

Former Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party’s (TDP) national President N. Chandrababu Naidu was denied permission from entering the city and detained at the Renigunta airport here on March 1 as he arrived.

Mr. Naidu was scheduled to attend two protest dharnas, one at Gandhi statue in Tirupati and the other at Gandhi Circle in Chittoor city, against the ruling party’s alleged high-handed attitude in cracking down on Opposition party leaders.

The Tirupati dharna was to show resentment over the manner in which the ruling YSR Congress government had allegedly misused its official machinery to pull down a tea kiosk belonging to a TDP worker situated in front of a leading cinema theatre, dubbing it an ‘encroachment’.

Squatting in the airport lobby, Mr. Naidu flayed the officials of acting at the behest of the ruling party and sought to know if it was appropriate for an Opposition leader who had served as the Chief Minister for three terms to be treated this way by the police department. He refused to leave the spot and insisted on meeting the Collector and Superintendent of Police.

Meanwhile, Superintendent of Police (Tirupati Urban) Ch. Venkata Appala Naidu told the media that the department had declined permission for the dharna, citing the model code of conduct in place for the elections and the likelihood of a second wave of COVID-19 in Tirupati.

The application for organising the dharna, submitted online late on February 28 night, had to be rejected in view of the above reasons. The party leaders also did not give sufficient time to the department to act. The SP said, permission to stage dharna at Gandhi statue close to APSRTC bus station would also cause inconvenience to pilgrims visiting Tirupati and cause inconvenience for the movement of ambulances.

Earlier, TDP Tirupati parliamentary constituency in-charge G. Narasimha Yadav was arrested when he arrived at the airport to receive Mr. Naidu, while Tirupati former MLA M. Sugunamma was placed under house arrest. Several leaders were detained and brought to the Tirupati East police station to “bring the situation under control”.

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‘The authorities declared war on us because they’re afraid of the truth’. Belarusian journalists sentenced to two years in prison for live streaming a protest rally in Minsk




On Thursday, February 18, a Minsk court sentenced journalists Darya Chultsova and Katsyaryna Andreyeva from the independent television channel Belsat to two years in prison. They were found guilty of organizing protests, despite the fact that they were only running a live stream of the rally in question. Journalists from countries around the world have spoken out in support of these two women and human rights defenders have declared them political prisoners. Meduza recounts how the criminal case against Darya Chultsova and Katsyaryna Andreyeva came about and how their trial ended.

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Rickshaw Drivers in Yangon Protest Against Military Takeover



Anti-military protests continued in Yangon, Myanmar, on February 18, following the military takeover of the country, and the detention of political leaders including President Win Myint and Aung San Suu Kyi. This footage, shared on Twitter, shows rickshaw drivers protesting in Yangon. They carried flags of the National League for Democracy, the country’s former ruling political party. Credit: @CripsyLoh via Storyful

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Myanmar’s largest protest comes as United Nations warns of military crackdown


Tens of thousands of demonstrators flooded the streets of Myanmar’s biggest city in one of largest protests yet, despite warnings from a United Nations human rights expert that recent troop movements could indicate the military was planning a violent crackdown.

In Yangon, protesters marched carrying signs calling for ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to be released from detention, while others feigned car trouble, strategically abandoning their vehicles — and leaving the hoods up — to prevent security forces from easily accessing the demonstrations.

Large rallies were also held in the country’s second-biggest city, Mandalay, and the capital of Naypyitaw, in defiance of an order banning gatherings of five or more people.

One motorist, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared being targeted, explained tongue-in-cheek that his car had broken down “due to the suffering that our people are undergoing now”.

“We just stopped the cars here on the road to show that we do not want the military regime,” he said.

Demonstrators in Myanmar gather in their largest numbers so far.(AP)

The demonstrations came a day after UN rapporteur Tom Andrews expressed alarm at reports of soldiers being transported into Yangon, noting that such movements had previously preceded killings, disappearances and mass arrests.

“I am terrified that given the confluence of these two developments — planned mass protests and troops converging — we could be on the precipice of the military committing even greater crimes against the people of Myanmar,” he said in a statement issued by the UN Human Rights office in Geneva.

There have since been no reports of major violence at the protests.

However, residents of Mandalay reported hearing gunshots about an hour after the start of the nightly curfew at 8:00pm local time as dozens of police and soldiers roamed a neighbourhood with housing for state railway workers.

There have been similar reports of gunshots and other aggressive actions in several cities since last week — apparently part of attempts to intimidate people rather than cause injury.

Railway workers could be targets because they have declared their support for the protest movement and carried out work stoppages.

Military declared protests were dying down

Demonstrators on motor bikes flash the three-fingered salute against the military coup as they ride pass military vehicles
Demonstrators on motorbikes flash the three-fingered salute against the military coup as they ride past military vehicles.(AP)

The military seized power on February 1, the day newly elected parliamentarians were supposed to take their seats.

It was a shocking backslide for a country that had been taking tentative steps toward democracy.

The junta said the takeover was necessary because Ms Suu Kyi’s government had failed to investigate fraud claims in elections her party won in a landslide.

The election commission has dismissed those claims.

The high protest turnout came a day after junta leaders declared hat the demonstrations were dying down.

“This upset the people,” one protester said.

“We are not weak, we will never step back in the fight against the military regime. So we are back on the street again.”

In Naypyitaw, thousands of people, including private bank employees and engineers, marched down the city’s wide boulevards, chanting for the release of Ms Suu Kyi and President Win Myint.

Protesters also poured into the streets of Mandalay, where earlier in the week security forces pointed guns at demonstrators and attacked them with slingshots and sticks.

Local media reported that several people were injured.

The marches have been organised as part of a civil disobedience movement, spearheaded by medical workers and supported by many civil servants.

Police filed a new charge against Ms Suu Kyi, her lawyer said Tuesday, in a move likely to keep her under house arrest and further fuel public anger.

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Armoured vehicles seen in the streets of Yangon as protests continue in Myanmar.

It was the second charge against Ms Suu Kyi.

The first was for illegally possessing walkie-talkies, the second for an alleged violation of coronavirus restrictions.

On Tuesday night, the military for a third day in a row ordered an internet blackout, almost entirely blocking online access from 1:00am to 9:00am.

While the military did not say why the internet was being blocked, there was widespread speculation that the government was installing a firewall system to allow it to monitor or block online activity.

AP

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India activist Disha Ravi arrested over farmers’ protest ‘toolkit’


“We have registered a case for spreading disaffection against the government of India – it’s regarding sedition – and disharmony between groups on religious, social and cultural grounds, and criminal conspiracy to give shape to such a plan,” he added.

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V-Day: Powerful protest sheds light on a grim statistic



It’s a day that signifies love for so many.

But on Valentine’s Day, one group is continuing to call out the tragically high proportion of girls and women who experience abuse or violence throughout their life.

Gabrielle Griffin is one of organisers of the V Day flashmob protest, to be held at Byron Bay’s Main Beach from 6.30am on Sunday, February 14.

Ms Griffin said the annual event was first organised by Byron Shire’s citizen of the year, Zenith Virago, nine years ago.

“It all was started by Eve Ensler, who wrote The Vagina Monologues,” Ms Griffin said.

“She decided to start this movement, One Billion Rising.”

This came from the United Nations statistic that one in three women will be physically or sexually abused in their lifetime.

“All around the world on Valentine’s Day, women all around the world come together and do this dance (and) protest against violence against women and children,” she said.

“Men are totally welcome but come to the sidelines or come with a woman, come with a friend.

“It’s about empowering women to stand up, be visible, be heard.”

She said the group will dance to a song, then take a swim in the ocean if conditions are safe.

“It’s just about coming together as a community,” she said.

“I think generally there’s a greater awareness in the community of not needing to be ashamed and (speaking out) the whole Me Too movement is a great example of that.”

But with tensions high as communities deal with the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, she said it was still as important as ever to speak out.

“We’re trying to make the world a better place,” she said.

“It’s a great empowering day.

“For some women it’s very moving to be seen as a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“It can be very validating, to say ‘yes that happened to me too but here I am, I survived’.”

V-Day Byron Bay will held from 6.30am Sunday, with the dance from 7am. All welcome.

Ms Griffin said the Vagina Conversations sessions, at Byron Theatre from 7.30pm on Monday and Tuesday, had almost sold out. Proceeds go to the Women’s Resource Service – Byron Escape Fund.



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Washing machines and libraries: What life is like in Indian farmers’ protest camps


In November, farmers infuriated by new agricultural reforms drove in tractor conveys from around India to set up multiple blockades at the city’s borders.

This camp at Ghazipur on the border between Delhi and the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh is one of three major temporary settlements on the outskirts of the capital. Almost everyone here is from neighboring Uttar Pradesh, but farmers at other camps have come from states including Haryana and Punjab — the latter is known as the “bread basket of India” due to its large food production industry.

Around 10,000 people — mainly men, both young and old — are stationed at Ghazipur alone, according to camp leaders, although the number fluctuates from day-to-day as farmers split their time between their homes and the camp. Many have family members minding their farms, allowing them to stay in the capital for long stretches.

The farmers face challenges — the cold winter temperatures, clashes with police and security forces, and restrictions on their internet access, among others. Despite that, farmers say they have no plans to leave until the government overturns the laws.

A makeshift town

Here at Ghazipur, the camp hums along like a well-oiled machine.

By night, the farmers who choose to stay asleep in brightly colored tents pitched on the road, or on mattresses underneath their tractors (and in hundreds of vans and trucks). By day, many help run the camp.

All their basic needs are catered for. There are portable toilets — although the stench makes it unpleasant to get too close. There’s also a supply store which has plastic crates of shampoo sachets and tissues — these supplies, like all those in the camp, were donated either by farmers or supporters of the farmers’ cause.

Water is brought in from nearby civic stations. Jagjeet Singh, a 26-year-old from Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh, uses his tractor to bring back 4,000 liter (1,057 gallon) tanks of water each day (he brings in about 10 to 12 such tanks a day) that can be used for drinking, bathing, and cleaning. Some men stand by the tank washing the grimy black mud from the wet road off their shoes and legs.

Meals are cooked over a small gas fire in a cast iron pan held up by fire-blackened bricks, and provided for free from inside of a tent that’s been constructed from bamboo poles and plastic. A farmer wearing blue medical gloves scoops pakora — a kind of spiced fritter — into bowls for farmers who are wrapped in scarves, jackets and hats to brave against Delhi’s winter chill. Nearby, cauliflower and potatoes burst out of burlap sacks.

A farmer gives out food at the camp in Ghazipur, on February 4, 2021.

Kuldeep Singh, a 36-year-old farmer, helps to prepare the meals. He came here over 60 days ago. Like many others, his family are helping cover his work back home, although he goes back and forth between the camp and his farm.

“Be it the work back home or the camp, both are equally important,” he said.

Himanshi Rana, a 20-year-old volunteer operating the camp’s makeshift medical center, has also been here for more than two months. She helps treat people’s diseases, and tended to farmers who were hit by tear gas during violent demonstrations on January 26 — India’s Republic Day. On that day, thousands of protesters stormed New Delhi’s historic Red Fort as police used tear gas and batons against the demonstrators. One protester died, although protesters and police disagree over the cause of death.
Himanshi Rana at the medical tent in Ghazipur on the outskirts of New Delhi, on February 4, 2021.

“My father is a farmer, I am a farmer’s daughter. Me being here is inevitable,” she said. “We are here to serve the people … we will stay put until the government agrees to the demands.”

One thing the protesters are not asking for are face masks. Despite India reporting the most coronavirus cases of any country in the world bar the United States, no farmers at Ghazipur are wearing face coverings.

Farmers at Ghazipur say they’re not worried about coronavirus — according to Rana, they believe that they have strong immunity from their physical labor, meaning they’re not scared of catching it.

What life is like in the camps

The mood of the camp is joyful, more like a festival than a demonstration.

The camp itself is a kind of protest — the farmers are blocking the road to help bring awareness to their cause. It’s also the base for demonstrations, including the rally that turned violent on Republic Day.

For many, there are hours of downtime when they’re not helping run the camp or holding demonstrations. A group of men sit in a circle smoking hookah pipes, while others play cards on a blanket. More than a dozen men sit or stand on a red tractor, playing a pro-farmer song from the speakers as they ride through the camp. There’s a library for the youngsters that includes books on revolutions in multiple languages.

Every now and again, a group breaks into a chant. “We’ll be here until the government gives in!”

As the water collector Jagjeet Singh puts it: “I don’t feel like I am away from home.”

Farmers in Ghazipur gather fresh fruit from the back of a supply truck, on February 4, 2021.

And there are people besides the protesters, too. Young children dash through the camp, trying to scavenge things to sell elsewhere. Vendors from nearby villages spread out pro-farmer badges on blankets and curious onlookers from nearby areas come to see what’s going on.

But all this belies the serious reason why they’re there — that for many this is a matter of life or death.

Farmers say the new laws aimed at bringing more market freedom to the industry will make it easier for corporations to exploit agricultural workers — and leave them struggling to meet the minimum price that they were guaranteed for certain crops under the previous rules.

And while the mood within the camp is calm and relaxed, there’s a constant reminder that not everyone supports the farmers’ fight.

Down time in Ghazipur as farmers gather together outside of a makeshift tent, on February 4, 2021.

Large barricades erected by the police and topped with barbed wire stand a few hundred meters from the hubbub of camp life, hemming the farmers in and keeping them from encroaching any closer to the center of Delhi. Security forces line the sides of the camp, keeping watch for any trouble, although they have not tried to clear the camp — likely because it would be politically unpopular.

The farmers say the barricades make them seem like outsiders — like they are foreigners in their own land who don’t belong here.

“The government is treating us like we are Chinese, sitting on the other side of the fence,” Kuldeep Singh said, referring to the tense border dispute currently taking place between India and China in the Himalayas.

Difficulty for protesters

As the months have worn on, protesting has become harder.

The winter temperatures have dropped to below 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Farenheit) at night. And tensions have ramped up during the protests. Last week, internet access was blocked in several districts of a state bordering India’s capital following violent clashes between police and farmers there protesting the controversial agricultural reforms.

The government has been criticized not only for the controversial farm laws themselves, but also how it has handled the demonstrations. At the end of January, India’s main opposition party, the Congress Party, and 15 other opposition parties, said Prime Minister Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party have been “arrogant, adamant and undemocratic in their response.”

“(Hundreds and thousands) of farmers have been … braving biting cold and heavy rain for the last 64 days for their rights and justice,” they wrote in a joint statement. “The government remains unmoved and has responded with water cannons, tear gas and lathi charges. Every effort has been made to discredit a legitimate mass movement through government sponsored disinformation campaign.”

According to Samyukta Kisan Morcha, the umbrella body of protesting farmers, at least 147 farmers have died during the course of the monthslong protests from a range of causes, including suicide, road accidents and exposure to cold weather. Authorities have not given an official figure on protester deaths.

Nevertheless, farmers are continuing to arrive at the camps, Samyukta Kisan Morcha said earlier this week.

“Typically these village groups work against each other but this time they have all united for the collective fight,” said Paramjeet Singh Katyal, a spokesperson for Samyukta Kisan Morcha.

What happens next

Protests are fairly common in India, the world’s largest democracy. And it’s not the first time that large protests have rocked the country. In 2019, India’s parliament passed a controversial bill that gave Indian citizenship to immigrants from three neighboring countries, but not if they are Muslim, prompting mass demonstrations.

But these protests are a particular challenge for Modi.

Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for 58% of India’s 1.3 billion population, making farmers the biggest voter block in the country. Angering the farmers could lose Modi a significant chunk of votes at the next general election in 2024. Modi and his government continue to insist that they are supporting farmers, and called the new laws as a “watershed moment” which will ensure a complete transformation of the agriculture sector. Besides calling the move long overdue, Modi has not said why he opted to introduce these measures during the pandemic, which has caused India to suffer its first recession in decades.

In a statement issued this week, the Indian government said that the protests “must be seen in the context of India’s democratic ethos and polity, and the ongoing efforts of the government and the concerned farmer groups to resolve the impasse,” and that certain measures, such as the temporary internet block, were “undertaken to prevent further violence.”

The camps have also created a headache for nearby commuters and trucks bringing food into Delhi — people who would have traveled on the expressway at Ghazipur are forced to take different routes, sometimes doubling their travel time.

But the farmers are showing no interest in backing down.

A farmer sports a protest slogan meaning "I love farmers" at a protest camp in Ghazipur, on February 4, 2021.

Rounds of talks have failed to make any headway. Although the Supreme Court put three contentious farm orders on hold last month and ordered the formation of a four-member mediation committee to help the parties negotiate, farmers’ leaders have rejected any court-appointed mediation committee.

Last month, central government offered to suspend the laws for 1.5 years — but to farmers, all of this is not far enough.

Sanjit Baliyan, 25, has been at the camp for over a month, working at the supply tent. He points out that farmers have done a lot for Modi’s government, only for Modi to introduce a law that removes any minimum prices for their stocks.

“We haven’t spoken against the government for last seven years. But, if we are at receiving end, we will have to speak,” he said.

Some, like 50-year-old farmer Babu Ram, want the protests to end. “A prolonged protest is neither good for the farmers nor for the government. The protest, if it’s stretched, will create a ruckus.”

But he added: “This protest will only end once the government agrees to our demands … we have to stay here till the end.”

While Kuldeep Singh agrees that there’s hardship — farmers’ households have cut their own consumption to contribute to the protest camps — he says farmers will only leave once the laws are repealed. “We will sit here for the next three years. We will sit till the elections, till the laws are scrapped.”

Jouranlist Rishabh Pratap and Esha Mitra contributed to this story from New Delhi.



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Myanmar coup: Tens of thousands protest and call for Aung San Suu Kyi’s release despite internet blackout | World News


Tens of thousands of people have marched for a second day in Myanmar’s biggest city to denounce the military coup.

Protesters in Yangon carried red balloons – the colour representing the party of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was detained by the military last week.

Sunday was the second day of protests and they took place despite the junta having shut down the internet and restricted phone coverage.

Image:
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Myanmar’s cities

A 22-year-old who came with 10 friends and asked not to be named, said: “We cannot accept the coup.

“This is for our future. We have to come out.”

A woman in her early 30s said she and her family, also at the protest, refused to be afraid, adding: “We have to join the people, we want democracy.”

There had also been protests on Saturday, with demonstrators across the country demanding the release of Ms Suu Kyi.

More from Aung San Suu Kyi

In Yangon, they chanted: “Military dictator, fail, fail; democracy, win, win.”

As they were met by more than 100 police in riot gear, they held banners reading: “Against military dictatorship.”

Protesters called for the release of their democratic leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi
Image:
Protesters called for the release of their democratic leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi

Protesters gave a three-finger salute, a symbol of defiance adopted from protesters in neighbouring Thailand, who borrowed the gesture from the Hunger Games movie franchise.

Food and water were offered to the growing numbers of protesters as they marched to gain back their hard-fought and fragile democratic rights.

Late in the evening, a rumour of Ms Suu Kyi’s release triggered noisy street celebrations, with cheering and firecrackers being let off.

Residents said the message had been shared by the military-run media Myawaddy.

But the detained leader’s lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, denied the 75-year-old had been freed and said she was still in detention.

Protesters gathered despite not having social media or the internet to organise themselves
Image:
Protesters gathered despite not having social media or the internet to organise themselves

Her National League for Democracy (NLD) won the 8 November elections in a landslide but the military generals have refused to recognise the result, claiming it was fraudulent.

Earlier on Saturday, thousands marched to Yangon’s City Hall, with drivers honking horns and raising the three-finger salute as protesters did the same.

The protesters had mostly gone home by nightfall as a curfew set in but people banged on pots, pans and drums for the fifth night in a row in a show of resistance.

In Myanmar‘s second city, Mandalay, and its military-built capital, Naypyidaw, thousands more marched as demonstrators chanted anti-coup slogans and called for Ms Suu Kyi’s release.

Protesters brought placards calling for justice for the country
Image:
Protesters brought placards calling for justice for the country

Despite the internet being blocked, the number of protesters continued to grow while the state-run broadcaster MRTV showed scenes praising the military.

A “national-scale internet blackout” was reported by monitoring group NetBlocks Internet Observatory.

It said connectivity had fallen to 16% of usual levels.

Riot police were deployed to Myanmar's streets at protesters demonstrated
Image:
Riot police were deployed to Myanmar’s streets at protesters demonstrated
The military junta took control of Myanmar on 1 February
Image:
The military junta took control of Myanmar on 1 February

Twitter and Instagram became the latest social media platforms to be blocked, following Facebook earlier this week.

Facebook, which is used by half the population, called for the junta to unblock social media.

“At this critical time, the people of Myanmar need access to important information and to be able to communicate with their loved ones,” Facebook’s head of public policy for Asia-Pacific emerging countries, Rafael Frankel, said.

The UN’s human rights office said: “Internet and communication services must be fully restored to ensure freedom of expression and access to information.”

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Temporary suspension of internet again at Delhi’s three border protest sites


New Delhi: The Ministry of Home Affairs has ordered the suspension of internet services at Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri borders of Delhi, where farmers have been protesting against the new farm laws, for 24 hours till Saturday night in the wake of their ‘chakka jam’ call, officials said.

Apart from the three sites, internet services will remain suspended in their adjoining areas too till 23:59 hours on February 6.

 

The decision has been taken to ‘maintain public safety and averting public emergency’ under Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules 2017, a home ministry official said.

The internet has been suspended in view of the ‘chakka jam’ (road blockade) call given by the farmers’ unions for Saturday, another official said.

Earlier, the suspension of internet services was ordered at Singhu, Ghazipur, and Tikri borders and their adjoining areas from 11 PM on January 29 and was effective till 11 PM on January 31, which was further extended till February 2.

 

On January 26, when large-scale violence was reported during the farmers’ tractor rally, internet services were temporarily suspended in some parts of Delhi.

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Naomi Osaka on her powerful US Open Black Lives Matter protest


By the time the US Open rolled around a week later, the Japanese-born daughter of a Haitian father and Japanese mother went from tennis prodigy to poster girl of the Black Lives Matter movement, not just in the United States but around the globe.

Unknown to most at the time, Osaka walked into Flushing Meadows on day one of the US Open with seven different face masks in her bag, each embroidered with the name of an African-American recently killed by a police officer.

Osaka wears a mask featuring the name George Floyd at the US Open.Credit:AP

Breonna Taylor – the 26-year-old who was shot and killed in her Louisville home while she was sleeping, was the first name in a gesture that captured the attention of people around the world.

Motivated by a desire to wear all seven masks, Osaka pressed ahead all the way through to the final, when she walked on to Arthur Ashe stadium with the name of 12-year-old boy, Tamir Rice, who was shot dead in Cleveland while holding a toy gun at a playground back in 2014.

“I’m most proud of getting conversations started where they might not otherwise have been,” Osaka said. “For example there were BLM marches in places like Japan, that I’m not sure was imaginable a few months ago.”

With a different name plastered across her face each time she took the court, Osaka’s own name began dominating headlines around the world.

Naomi Osaka celebrates a comeback victory after winning the US Open on Saturday.

Naomi Osaka celebrates a comeback victory after winning the US Open on Saturday.Credit:

“The feedback from her sponsors was overwhelmingly positive and supportive,” Osaka’s agent Stuart Duguid told the Herald.

“Some of the brands built entire campaigns around her in the aftermath – for example Beats and Levi’s. In terms of individuals, I’m in pretty regular contact with Billie Jean King, who is a huge supporter of Naomi. I thought it was interesting how she related to the level of pressure that Naomi took upon herself – in taking a bold stance, you have to back it up with a win.”

Osaka did just that, claiming her third grand slam with a victory over Victoria Azarenka in the final of a tournament that will come to be remembered as much for her powerful protest as her success with racquet in hand.

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“The events of last summer definitely raised her profile, especially in the US,” Duguid said.

“From a marketing perspective, of course that made her even more desirable. However, it didn’t really change the core strategy of brands we wanted to align with. There have probably been two landmark moments in her career – the first was after she beat Serena to win the US Open in 2018. The second was after the events of last summer. After a few years working together I think I know her pretty well – so none of her plans were a surprise to me.

One of Joe Biden’s highest priority goals upon taking the US presidency from Donald Trump was to advance ‘racial equity’. It provided hope to many American athletes who believed their actions during the Black Lives Matter movement wouldn’t be in vain.

“I really hope so and I’m optimistic,” Osaka said when asked if she believed the new leadership in America would bring positive change.

“Kamala (US vice president Kamala Harris) is such an inspiration to me as a woman with Caribbean and Asian roots – much like myself.

“I feel like representation is so powerful and for young girls to see people in leadership positions like Kamala and Michelle Obama is so inspiring.”

US Vice President Kamala Harris bumps fists with President Joe Biden after she was sworn in during the inauguration in January.

US Vice President Kamala Harris bumps fists with President Joe Biden after she was sworn in during the inauguration in January.Credit:AP

At the end of 2020, Osaka’s feats both on and off the court were recognised alongside NBA superstar LeBron James, who is the executive producer on her Netflix documentary to be released later this year.

Osaka and James were named the AP female and male athletes of the year respectively, summing up the magnitude of what the 23-year-old was able to do in a breakout 2020 campaign.

“It was a great honour,” Osaka said. “It meant even more to be alongside LeBron because he’s had such an amazing season both on and off the court.”

While her popularity has soared across the globe over the past 12 months, Osaka’s third most prominent market is now Australia, with the US replacing Asia at number one.

“I’d say that until last year Asia was the most prominent market for her, but now I feel like the US and the western world in general has caught up to where it’s more or less equivalent,” Duguid said.

“She has appeal in every continent – Asia obviously as her home nation; America as the place she was born and raised and probably most identifies with the culture; Europe where they are tennis-mad; and Australia where she is a recent grand slam champion.”

Duguid uses the word authenticity when describing Osaka. A woman with the confidence to speak her mind no matter the consequences, and who would be just as happy working in fashion and photography if she wasn’t blessed with the talent that has seen her lift a grand slam trophy on three occasions in as many years.

“It would have been cool to study that at college and have that experience,” Osaka said. “I also love business and am very entrepreneurial so I would probably be pursuing that somehow.”

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For now, she’s just happy winning tennis matches and working on a manga comic series.

“That is something my sister and I dreamt of doing from an early age so it’s awesome to see that dream become a reality,” Osaka said of her partnership with the woman she grew up trying to beat.

“I guess for me I can’t think about tennis 24-7 and let it overwhelm me. I need an outlet to keep my brain fresh so that’s why I love pursuing other stuff.

“Tennis has given me that platform and privilege so I don’t take it for granted.”

Duguid says there is no difference between the public and private persona of Osaka. If she believes in something, she will say it. Or wear it.

“There is no filter and what you see is what you get,” Duguid said. “She is the present and the future – the epitome of Gen Z.”

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