RSF disapproves of the decision of Eddie Cheung’s appointment as the head of Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK). He was a former territory representative to the European Union, known for his involvement in a smear campaign against international media. He is filling the role of another political commissar, Patrick Li, who was also a bureaucrat without previous media experience, with a strong pro-Beijing commitment.
While serving as the Special Representative for Hong Kong Economic and Trade Affairs to the EU, he signed about 58 public letters in which he accused some of the major European media of ‘unfounded allegations’ on Hong Kong’s policies.
RSF revealed the systematic censorship and information control by the Chinese regime in Mainland China and Hong Kong in their report titled The Great Leap Backwards of Journalism in China. The analysis showed that these actions pose a great threat to press freedom and democracy on a global level.
While once being an example of well-implemented press freedom, Hong Kong had a downfall from 80th in 2021 to 148th this year according to the RSF World Press Freedom Index.
Since the fall of Kabul and the creation of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the impact on media is unquestionable. During the past year, journalism in Afghanistan has been decimated. RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire emphasizes: ‘Media and journalists are being subjected to iniquitous regulations that restrict media freedom and open the way to repression and persecution. The authorities must undertake to end the violence and harassment inflicted on media workers, and must allow them to do their job unmolested.’
When it comes to the slaughtering of press freedom in Afghanistan, women journalists are subjected to it the most. According to RSF’s survey, in the past year, they disappeared in 11 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Out of 2,756 women journalists and media workers who were employed in 2021, only 656 are working today. This downfall resulted in the percentage of 76.19% of women journalists who are no longer working in their homeland. Statistically, 84.6% of female media workers are working in the Kabul region, and recently women TV presenters were being made to cover their faces while presenting on camera. The excuses for harassing female workers are primarily accusations of ‘immorality or conduct contrary to society’s values.’
The overall statistical report on press freedom in Afghanistan shows that both men and women have lost their jobs since the regime change. A total of 7098 journalists are no longer employed which includes 54.52% of men as well. The number of media outlets also dropped, with 39.59% of them being lost.
This media situation is a reflection of Taliban governance, with the impact of the draconian regulations and the inability to respect Afghanistan’s press freedom law.
RSF is praising the release of seven prisoners in Egypt at the end of last month. Nevertheless, these releases come as a government’s part of a five-year ‘National Strategy for Human Rights’ started in September 2021.
Its aim is to promote reforms that should result in an increase of freedoms for Egyptians, including press freedom. The United States is donating Egypt $1.3 billion in military aid each year and another $130 million is conditioned on respect and implementation of human rights, thus encouraging the Egyptian government to give presidential pardons.
RSF notes that despite these releases, around 20 journalists are still in jail. Some of them are the bloggers ‘Mohamed Oxygen’ and Alaa Abdel Fattah, a freelance photographer Alia Awad, and four Al Jazeera journalists – Rabie El-Sheikh, Ahmed El-Nagdy, Bahaa Ed-Din Ibrahim, and Hesham Abdel Aziz. Fattah and several of his fellow detainees were even considering ‘group suicide’ as they were not on the list of pardoned prisoners.
Al-Manassa, an independent Egyptian news website, has been inaccessible in Egypt since last month, while more than 500 other websites have been blocked from online access since 2017, which includes the RSF.
Nyein Nyein Aye, a Myanmar freelancer and journalist, was sentenced to a three-year prison sentence for the spread of ‘false news.’ She was also accused of causing fear and agitating crimes against a government employee. While Nyein worked for various media outlets, one of them: Mizzima News, was banned by the junta.
Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk implied that this arrest is followed by the big wave of arrests of journalists after the February 2021 coup. He also noted that these sentences behind closed doors by military courts are similar to a factory production line. RSF’s press freedom barometer shows that she is the 24th journalist to receive a prison sentence out of the 67 media workers currently held in Myanmar’s prisons.
U.S. president Joe Biden said in his speech at the Arab summit in Saudi Arabia that the United States will keep its close partnership with the Middle East while urging leaders who attended the summit to advance human rights as a powerful source of economic and social changes. With that being said, freedom of the press and democratic rights are highlighted. He urged the necessity of releasing journalists.
Biden sent a message to the leaders saying: ‘Accountable, accountable institutions that are free from corruption and act transparently and respect the rule of law are the best way to deliver growth, respond to people’s needs, and I believe ensure justice.’
Since Shehbaz Sharif took over as a Pakistani prime minister in April, there have been a dozen reports of army-related agencies harassing the media, as RSF cautioned. Critical journalists have been a target of a major army campaign to intimidate their work, parallelly destabilizing Pakistan’s democracy.
This serious decline in press freedom was bolstered with the latest case on 9 July when BOL news anchor, Sami Ibrahim, got attacked by three people. The next day, he posted a YouTube video, saying that the attack was planned to prevent him from filming the scene, and the attackers later left in a vehicle with clear signs of being state-owned.
Reporters Without Borders (RWB) is an international non-profit public interest organization in France which has defended the promotion of freedom of information since 1985.
On 18 July, RWB will present its newly founded Digital Security Lab: a digital forensic laboratory that will help combat the threats of online surveillance. Based in Berlin, the Digital Security Lab is designed to analyze the devices of journalists who suspect they are under any digital surveillance. Journalists are a target of many threats that can affect their devices or personal social accounts for malicious reasons. This requires a rigorous and united response, and that is why any journalist will be able to contact the Digital Security Lab if they suspect they are the target of digital espionage because of their work.
Journalists often receive sophisticated phishing messages, and Digital Security Lab experts will search for clues with the analysis of suspicious messages to find out if they are for sent spying purposes. The team will also examine installed programmes and will check for other data traces that might offer traces about previous activities and spying technologies.
Relatives of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed while covering an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank in May, showed their deep disappointment in President Joe Biden in a letter released over his administration’s response to her death.
The family accused the U.S. of trying to deny Israel’s responsibility for her death, saying in an official statement that Israeli fire most likely killed her but that the shooting in the West Bank town of Jenin was an accident. They sent a request to Biden for meeting with them when he visits the region, which The White House declined to comment on, alongside with the matters of the letter.
Palestinian eyewitnesses who claimed they saw she was shot by Israeli forces gained support from a reconstruction made by The Associated Press, investigations by CNN, New York Times, and The Washington Post as well as monitoring by the U.N. human rights office.
A Turkish court has jailed 16 Kurdish journalists for “belonging to a terrorist organisation” and their close cooperation with the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Diyarbarkir. They were also accused of spreading terrorist propaganda and since 2016 several hundred HDP members have already been detained.
Nazim Bilgin, the president of the Journalists’ Association of Turkey warns that: “We are living in the darkest days of our country as far as press freedom is concerned.” It is also alarming that Turkey has jailed more reporters than most other countries in the previous decade, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.