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Weekly Digest: New Limitations on the Press

Welcome to The Fix’s weekly news digest! Every Friday, we bring you important news stories from the world of media – and try to put them in a wider context.

Press freedom has been deteriorating in the CEE region for years now, but this week has been particularly dark for the “illiberal trio” of Poland, Hungary, and Belarus. The governments in all three countries took steps to further reduce media freedom.

In Poland, multiple publishers went dark on Wednesday to protest tax proposals that could hurt independent media. As The Fix put it, the government’s proposal “is widely seen as part of government efforts to bring the media sector to heel and push out foreign-owned players.”

Just the day before, a Hungarian court rejected an appeal by Klubrádió, the last major independent radio station in the country, thus confirming its license revocation and forcing it off air. Klubrádió will continue operating online, but the attack on one of the few independent media channels in the country has drawn stark criticism from the international community.

Meanwhile, Belarus continues its crackdown on press freedom, attacking individual journalists. Overall, hundreds of journalists have been targeted since mass protests started in August last year.

More from The Fix: Poland, Hungary, Belarus attacks on media freedom 

In the meanwhile, Chinese authorities are also limiting the press as the country’s National Radio and Television Administration banned BBC World News on Friday.

The Chinese government has been unhappy with BBC reporting on atrocities in the Xinjiang region. The ban is also likely a retaliation to UK Ofcom’s revocation of the China Global Television Network’s (CGTN) licence to broadcast in the country.

Beyond the symbolic importance, this move probably won’t have huge practical implications – as Reuters notes, BBC World News has anyway not been included in most TV channel packages. It is mostly available in some hotels and residences.

The move is part of broader tensions between the UK and China, however. According to The Guardian, “the ban is yet another sign of deteriorating relations between the UK and China… [that] have plummeted due to the imposition of new Chinese security laws in Hong Kong, a former UK colony, and a broader crackdown on dissidents.” 

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, won her privacy case against Mail on Sunday (a sister publication of the Daily Mail), over the scandal with publishing Meghan’s private letter to her estranged father. The judge agreed the newspaper did not have a right to publish a “private and confidential” letter.

As the Guardian notes, “there are concerns that Thursday’s ruling could place ‘manacles’ on future media reporting that uses leaked documents or letters,” though the correlation is debatable.

Audio-centered social network Clubhouse is gaining momentum.

As Axios points out, the new platform has benefitted from Big Tech leaders joining, perhaps most notably Elon Musk. Although it remains invite-only and available only on iOS, it’s been growing fast in the past several months, having gathered several million downloads.

Perhaps one of the signs of success is that Facebook is already trying to build a competing product (Twitter has already launched its Spaces format). As noted by New York Times, “Facebook has a history of breaking into new technologies and chasing different mediums that have attracted users, especially if those audiences are young” – most famously with Instagram copying Snapchat stories. 

More from The Fix: The ups and downs of Clubhouse 

Photo by AJ Colores on Unsplash

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