Spoiler: Today, 3rd of May, is World Press Freedom Day 2021. Press freedom is under duress in many countries and journalists are being harassed, jailed and killed by authoritarian regimes.
It’s not getting better. More journalists were reported missing, imprisoned, or murdered in 2020 than in 2019. A lot of this took place in Belarus where Lukashenka, with support of Putin, decided to clamp down on journalists whose reports about how his police’s brutal attacks on peaceful demonstrators.
Decreased world press freedom goes hand in hand with the increased autocratisation of the world. Autocratic leaders do not want a free press to report about its nefarious activities. Belarus and Russia lead the fight against the free press.
It is worse now than a year ago when I wrote this post. The Reporters without Borders Press Freedom Index 2021 offers a depressive reading. The tendency towards less Freedom of the Press has continued and most governments in the world restrict the freedom of the press, c.f. Map 1.
Map 1. Press Freedom Index 2021.
The tendency towards less Freedom of the Press is confirmed by data from Varieties of Democracy (https://www.v-dem.net). The attempts by governments to censor the media increased between 2019 and 2020, c.f. Table 1.
Table 1. Changes in government censorship efforts 2019-2020.
Source: V-Dem, Varieties of Democracy https://www.v-dem.net/en/ Note: Theindicator ranges from 0 to 4 where0 indicates that attempts to censor are direct and routine, 1 that attempts to censor are indirect but nevertheless routine, 2 that attempts to censor are direct but limited to especially sensitive issues, 3 that attempts to censor are indirect and limited to especially sensitive issues, and 4that the government rarely attempts to censor major media in any way, and when such exceptional attempts are discovered, the responsible officials are usually punished. The number of countries is different from my blog post last year which compared 2019 to 2000.
Closest to my home, the governments in Hungary and Poland have implemented laws and other measures to increase their controls of the media. But the most draconic measures are implemented by Lukashenka and Putin who not only brand media as foreign agents or close them down but also jail and murder journalists. Also Serbia and Slovenia are attacking journalists in a systematic way. Press Freedom is now almost completely abolished in Belarus and Russia, c.f. Figure 1.
Figure 1. Press Freedom in Europe 2020.
Compared to Communist China, Belarus and Russia are amateurs in media repression. Hong Kong used to be a free haven in China but since the “security laws” were imposed, the CCP arbitrarily punishes anything it may regard as “crimes against the state” . And it has, c.f. Figure 2.
Figure 2. Government censorship efforts of media 2000-2020.
The CCP does not do halt inside its own borders. Harassments, kidnapping and threats are routine as I wrote last year when I used this map, c.f. Map 2.
Map 2. Beijing’s censorship efforts outside of China.
The Communist regime’s ambassador in Sweden regularly criticises journalists and politicians who insist on reporting about the regime’s abuses of Gui Minhai, the Uighur population and democracy activists in Hong Kong. But he not only criticises, but he also threats journalists. Jojje Olsson, a Swedish journalist in Taiwan, received an e-mail which concluded that if he doesn’t stop reporting, he will face consequences:
It’s about time that the Chinese regime faces consequences.