Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Urban, Brazilian President Jair Bolsenro, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Saudi Prince Muhammad bin Salman, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Hong Kong Gov. Carrie Lem are among the 37 heads of state on the “Freedom of the Press” list published this week The French “Reporters Without Borders” (RSF) organization “should not allow their practices to become the ‘new normal’,” the organization’s chairman Christoph Delaware was quoted as saying.
RSF was founded in France in 1985 and focuses on protecting press freedom. Since 2001 he has been publishing a list of leaders who blatantly trample on press freedom and harass journalists by enacting censorship laws, arbitrarily imprisoning journalists or inciting violence against them.
The 2021 list is the first published since 2016. Seven of its global leaders have been on each of the lists published since 2001, including Putin, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iranian spiritual leader Ali Khamenei, as well as Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Alongside these, 17 new leaders joined the dubious list this year, never appearing on it, including, for the first time, two women and a European leader.
19 of these leaders control the red-colored countries in the RSF press freedom map, which means that the situation in them is described as “bad” for journalists. In 16 of the countries on the list, the color on the map is black, which means “very bad.” The average age of leaders who override the media is 66 and more than a third of them (13) control countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
“There are now 37 leaders from around the world on RSF’s media trampling list and no one can say that this list is exhaustive,” says the chairman of the organization Delaware. “Each of them has a different style. Some impose a rule of terror by issuing paranoid and irrational orders. Others adopt a carefully crafted strategy based on draconian laws. A big challenge for now is to get these predators to pay the highest possible price for their oppressive behavior. We must not let their methods become the new normal. “
The members are new to the dubious list
The most prominent member of the new entrants to the list is probably Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, 35, who concentrates all power in the country in his hands and heads a kingdom that suffers no journalistic freedom. His repressive attitudes included “espionage and threats that sometimes led to kidnappings, torture and other horrific acts. The shocking assassination of Jamal Hashukaji revealed a method of action that is simply barbaric,” the report said.
Hashukaji was a Saudi journalist who visited the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents he needed to marry. He was murdered inside the embassy in 2018. Saudi Arabia initially denied any connection to the case and former President Trump has shown complacency and support for the Saudi administration, but global public pressure has brought about change. A U.S. intelligence report earlier this year found that Ben Salman had confirmed the murder, and according to a Washington Post report from 2019, the children of the murdered journalist were receiving millions of dollars worth of homes and monthly payments of “five digits” in compensation for the murder.
In addition to the Saudi crown prince, the new members on the list also include leaders of completely different races, such as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonero, whose crude and aggressive media rhetoric has reached new heights since the start of the Corona plague.
The report includes a compilation of Bolsonero’s blatant quotes from the past year: “Some media are worse than rubbish, because rubbish can be recycled”; “Brazil has gone bankrupt, there is nothing I can do about it … I wanted to change the tax bracket, but we have This media-driven virus, this worthless media “;” Journalists can go to Zi … their mother and shove cans of sweetened milk into their ass “; Indiscriminate! You are worth nothing! You only publish lies. “
For the first time, European Prime Minister Victor Urban, who describes himself as a pioneer of the establishment of “illiberal democracy”, also came on the list. According to the report, Urban “has consistently and effectively undermined pluralism in the media and its independence since returning to power in 2010.”
According to the report, Urban controls 80% of the country’s media through their acquisitions by oligarchs close to his party, Fidesz, which controls the country. In addition, there is discrimination in Hungary against private media. They have very little access to statutory information and advertising and are described as Pike News providers. “His methods may be subtle or blatant, but they are always effective,” the report said.
For the first time: not just men
Another historic step was taken by the RSF when it first included the two women, both from Asia. One is Hong Kong Governor Carrie Lam, who took office while Hong Kong was still a democracy. However, since taking office as Hong Kong’s Special Administrative Region Director in 2017, she’s proven time and time again that she’s acting like “a puppet of Chinese President Xi Jinping.” It now openly supports China’s predatory policies towards the general public and the media in particular. This policy led to the closure of the leading independent newspaper in Hong Kong and the incarceration of its founder Jimmy Lai, winner of the RSF Press Freedom Award for 2020.
Carrie Lam has hit many symbols of press freedom in Hong Kong. By freezing the financial assets of Apple Daily, one of the few major Chinese-language media outlets that are still openly critical of the Chinese government in Beijing, it forced the paper to close last month. Lam also organized the judicial harassment of Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai, winner of the 2020 RSF Press Prize, as well as former legislator and journalist Claudia Moe, who was arrested in 2021 and charged under the National Security Act. Finally, Lam launched a full-fledged intimidation campaign against public broadcasting in Hong Kong on radio and television (RTHK). She appointed a new broadcast director, whose job it was to set up an internal censorship system, and took the editing intervention to the next level.
“There is no problem with criticism of the Hong Kong government,” she told her mother just last month, “but if there is an intention to organize incitement activities or to undermine the government then it is, of course, a different matter. […] Journalists need to be able to distinguish between them. “
The second woman is the daughter of a Bangladeshi liberator, Sina Vazad, who has served as prime minister since 2009. Its methods include the adoption of the Digital Security Act in 2018, which has led to the persecution of more than 70 journalists and bloggers.
Security services are constantly stopping
‘Abd al-Fatah al-Sisi, our neighbor from the south, is also on the list. According to the report, in Egypt journalists are easily arrested by the security services – sometimes as part of the wave of arrests, sometimes during street demonstrations and sometimes in moments of political tension. They can also be arrested directly and remain in extended temporary detention indefinitely. The two recurring charges against journalists are “Terrorist Group Membership” and “Pike News Distribution” and are sometimes also charged with “misuse of social media.”
Journalists in Egypt may be arrested for covering protests, writing an article on a “sensitive” issue in the eyes of the administration, sharing critical posts on social networks or working for banned media. Under the August 2015 Terrorism Act, journalists are required for reasons of “national security” to use the “official” version only when covering terrorist attacks or bombings. The Cybercrime Act of 2017 incriminates online auditing and gives authorities a free hand to block websites.
Another country where journalists are persecuted is Bahrain, which has recently seen a significant warming in relations between it and Israel. Under the King of Bahrain, Hemed bin Issa al-Khalifa, the monarchy has taken a tougher approach to journalists since the Arab Spring demonstrations in 2011. Reporters and photographers have suffered constant harassment and there is no longer any independent media in the country. Also, many critical journalists are serving long sentences, including life imprisonment, for participating in demonstrations, acts of vandalism or supporting terrorism. Several journalists who fled abroad were convicted of their absence or stripped of their citizenship of Bahrain. Women journalists and bloggers reported being sexually assaulted and constantly abused by government officials.
Indiana Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been on the list since 2014, according to the report Modi “has developed close ties with billionaire businessmen who hold vast communications empires”. Modi’s connections with media owners are visible to all and the journalists in these systems “know that they risk dismissal if they criticize the government.” As a rule, any journalist or media who doubts the prime minister’s nationalist-populist ideology is quickly branded as “sickular” – a deliberate combination of the two words “sick” (sick) “and” secular “(secular).
Not surprisingly, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also on the list. By various political and economic means, he also controls almost all the leading media groups (mainly TV channels). The state of emergency declared in July 2016 (after a failed coup) gave him the opportunity to stop unprecedented numbers of journalists and close more than 100 newspapers, magazines, TV channels and radio stations. The deteriorating climate against government-sponsored media encourages violence against journalists. More than 100 have been physically assaulted in the last five years and one, who worked at a radio station in the city of Bursa, was killed by a listener.
Any journalist or media outlet that is considered critical in Turkey risks prosecution. Even if Turkey is no longer the biggest persecutor of journalists in the world, the risk of imprisonment is still everywhere. In 2020, about 50 journalists were arrested in Turkey in connection with the coverage of the situation of Syrian refugees on the border with Greece or in connection with the coverage of the Corona plague. Any report on the internet that ill-illuminates prominent figures close to the government is routinely censored. More than 1,300 links to online articles on corruption were blocked in 2020, by judges whom Erdogan, through political channels, controls.
No list in any way related to media control would be complete without the dictator in the world’s knowledge, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The press is shunned and controlled.
Kim Jong Un is constantly violating Article 67 of the state constitution, which enshrines freedom of the press and restricts the media from transmitting content that praises the party, the military and itself. As a result of the regime’s desire to be completely isolated from the world, in recent years journalists have been arrested, deported, sent to forced labor camps and murdered. The few foreign journalists allowed to visit the country are barred from talking to ordinary citizens. The threatening treatment of journalists has made North Korea one of the least controlled destinations of journalists around the world.
Three African leaders
In addition to Assad, Putin, Khamenei and Lukashenko, who have been on the list since 2001, it also stars three leaders of African countries, who have ruled their countries for many years. Theodoro Obiang Nguema of Basungo, 79, has ruled Equatorial Guinea as president since 1979; Isas Afwarki, President of Eritrea, who has ruled his country since 1993; And Paul Kagma, a general appointed Rwandan vice-president in 1994 before being elected president in 2000.