This year, 37 state and government leaders are on the list of the world’s “biggest enemies of press freedom” released by Reporters Without Borders (RoG) on Monday. With Victor Orban, an EU prime minister has for the first time landed in the directory for government representatives, who, in the opinion of the media organization, “ruthlessly suppresses press freedom in a particularly harsh way”. It aims to condemn “particularly serious examples of restricting press work.”
Systematically attacked the media
Since coming to power in 2010, Orban has been attacking “the diversity and freedom of the media in Hungary”, Roji explains. The 58-year-old and his Fidesz party have “gradually brought the media landscape under their control” over the past ten years: public broadcasters are concentrated in MTVA, the state-owned media company, which includes Hungary’s only news agency, MDI.
The organization criticizes that regional newspapers have been wholly owned by urban friendly entrepreneurs since the summer of 2017. In the fall of 2018, nearly 500 media companies close to the government were merged into one grip “in order to centralize their reporting”. According to RoG, the mainstream independent media would have shut down those in power in parallel.
“Most recently it attacked the country’s largest news portal, Index.Hu, and the major radio station, Klubradi.” The national newspapers Napsapatzak and Magyar Nemset have also been suspended. Reports criticizing the government and investigative reports are widely circulated only through the small online media. Media close to the government have repeatedly published “black lists” of infamous journalists.
New on the list
Newcomers to the list are Brazilian President Jair Bolsanaro, who, according to the compilation, has repeatedly provoked the press, especially through social media, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. “The assassination of Jamal Kashogi is a crime against humanity,” Rogue accused.
Hong Kong Prime Minister Gary Lam For the first time with the partyBecause “in the Chinese special administrative region, the ‘Apple Daily’ newspaper had to stop operations in June, which is a sign of press freedom”.
There are many longtime “enemies of press freedom”. They include Xi Jinping, China’s head of state and party leader, Bashar al – Assad, the ruler of Syria, and Isaiah Afewerki, the president of Eritrea.
In Eastern Europe, Rosie counts Russian President Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus as opponents of the independent press for more than 20 years. The agency estimates that at least 37 reporters have been killed since Putin took office. None of these crimes have been solved.
The situation of independent media workers has worsened again this year, following protests in support of opposition politician Alexei Navalny and a few months before the Duma election in September. They were now at risk of being arbitrarily declared foreign agents. Many news websites critical of the Kremlin have had to quit their jobs or become financially strapped in the past few weeks.
Abuse in Belarus
In Belarus, the dictator Lukashenko “brutally suppresses the free dissemination of information,” Rosie complains. More than 500 journalists have been arrested since the protests against his rule began last summer and, in some cases, harsh treatment in prison. 25 of them are still in custody. The regime has revoked its license from the most important independent news site, Tut.by.
On May 23, Lukashenko returned a plane to Minsk and caused international outrage when he was forced to land for the arrest of deported blogger Roman Protosevic.
Attacks in the Asia-Pacific region
Only 13 of the condemned heads of state rule the Asia-Pacific region. In the Philippines, attacks on journalists and independent media have increased sharply since President Rodrigo Durte took office in 2016, write list makers. “At least four media workers were killed last year because of their work.” The regime also includes award-winning journalist Maria Ressa and the news site she founded, Rapler.
With the change of regime of Junta Chef Min Aung Hlong in February, Myanmar said, “Press freedom in the country has been set back in ten years within a few days.” Dozens of journalists have been arrested and the independent media have had their licenses revoked. Repression methods “are different, but serve the same purpose: to prevent critical reporting at all costs,” Rose executive director Christian Mihr explained. Journalists affected by the magazine said, “Whoever dares to continue their research, but the population is denied access to independent information, which is very important in times of global epidemics.” It is also alarming that “those responsible for horrific crimes often escape punishment”. The list is not exhaustive.