Editorial of the “World”. At the time of the assessments, the one on the situation of the press in the world does not encourage optimism. The annual reports of Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), published in December, testify to this. Their results may be different due to their own calculation methods, the two independent journalists’ organizations both report a record number of imprisonments (293 for CPJ, 488 for RSF). The only glimmer of hope is to be found in the drop in the number of fatalities (24 for CPJ, which adopts more restrictive accounting, and 46 for RSF).
The two reports implicate the same authoritarian regimes: China, Burma and Belarus are in the first part of this classification of dishonor. It is enough to rekindle the memories of the past year to explain it. Beijing’s takeover of Hong Kong thus resulted in a bringing to heel, one of the most dramatic consequences of which was the killing, in June, of theApple Daily, free newspaper to the point of impertinence, in the name of a new draconian law relating to national security.
The coup in Burma in February was followed by a brutal flashback for the press after the boom years that had accompanied the attempt to democratize the country. The continuation of the repression in Belarus, after the contested re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko, was marked, in May, by the hijacking of the airliner in which the opposition journalist Roman Protassevich had been seated. In December, blogger and opponent Sergei Tsikhanovsky was sentenced to the crushing sentence of 18 years in prison.
The assault on the press also borrows from forms of hybrid wars with, in particular, the use of spyware which allows increased surveillance of journalists and their sources, to make their investigations impossible. To the work of undermining States, we must also add that of other actors, such as the kidnappers who detain the French journalist Olivier Dubois, kidnapped in April in Gao, Mali. Many other regimes than those already mentioned feed this desperate chronicle, some of which have the best relations with Western countries which pride themselves on defending press freedom, such as Egypt, Vietnam or Saudi Arabia.
This crumbling is an indication of the collapse of democracy in the world and of the new vigor of authoritarian regimes. And those who could fight against this deleterious drift are, unfortunately, often poorly placed to lecture. Denounce the press as ” enemy of the people ”, As Donald Trump has done throughout his mandate, has left its mark. In France, a candidate for the presidential election can now attract podium successes by vengeance against the counter-power represented by journalists, uniformly accused of adding to the country’s supposed misfortunes.
We should therefore not be mistaken about the meaning of the attribution of the Nobel Peace Prize to two journalists, the Filipino-American Maria Ressa, founder of the investigative media Rappler, and the editor of the independent Russian newspaper Novaïa Gazeta, Dmitry Muratov. This distinction serves as a warning against a stubborn offensive aimed everywhere at the freedom to inform.
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Defending a freedom to inform under siege