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Weekly Digest: Press Freedom Limitations, New Technologies

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.

As Europe faces a new surge of COVID-19 cases, Hungary is experiencing one of the worst outbreaks. Yet, the country’s journalists face considerable hurdles trying to report on this vital topic.

On Wednesday, an open letter published by over two dozen Hungary’s independent outlets accused the government of preventing journalists from reporting on the pandemic. According to a summary by Reuters, “reporters said they had been blocked from hospitals and barred from speaking to medics, making it impossible to alert the public to the crisis.”

This week’s memorandum by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights also emphasised the obstruction faced by independent media in covering the pandemic – such as the bans for public servants, including teachers and health officials, from speaking to independent outlets.

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

Apart from reporting obstruction, in some countries journalists are facing persecution and imprisonment for doing their job.

In Belarus, the authorities detained on Sunday three editors of independent media outlets with influential Telegram channels, Galina Ulasik and Anna Kaltygina of TUT.by and Yahor Martsinovich, a top editor at Nasha Niva.

It’s not the first time these particular journalists are facing government persecution and part of a broad pattern of silencing independent media in the wake of continuing pro-democracy protests, which started last August and, after a two-months break, resumed in late March.

More from The Fix: Help needed: what can be done to support Belarusian media 

In Myanmar, the new military regime, which took control of the government in a coup earlier this year, reportedly targets journalism to silence criticism.

As The New York Times reports, “the regime has arrested at least 56 journalists, outlawed online news outlets known for hard-edge reporting and crippled communications by cutting off mobile data service.” The very use of the words “regime” and “coup” will get independent journalists in trouble. The work of citizen journalists – “young people… with their phones”, in the words of NYT – helps document the situation 

In technology news, The New York Times author sold his column for $560,000 as a non-fungible token (NFT), an increasingly popular way to trade digital art – or anything else digital.

According to its author, technology columnist Kevin Roose, “bidders [who participated in the auction] say they had many different motivations, including fun, self-promotion and a signal of support for the NFT market.”
While this fact certainly speaks to the power The New York Times holds in the media ecosystem in the US and globally, it’s mostly an interesting story about the NFT mania that we’ve seen in the past several weeks. Since the money will be spent on charity, it’s also a exotic example of how journalism can be used to raise money for noble causes.

Photo by Christian Holzinger on Unsplash

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