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Weekly Digest: Prizes and Crackdowns

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

Last Friday, this year’s Pulitzer Prizes, one of the most prestigious awards in journalism, were announced in the United States. 

The prizes in journalism focused on two biggest topics in the United States last year, the COVID-19 pandemic and racial inequality. Reuters and Minneapolis Star Tribune won a Pulitzer Prize for covering racial inequities in policing.

The New York Times received the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for “courageous, prescient and sweeping coverage of the coronavirus pandemic that exposed racial and economic inequities, government failures in the U.S. and beyond, and filled a data vacuum…” The Atlantic received the prize for the first time thanks to a series of explanatory COVID-19 coverage by Ed Yong.

The prize for international reporting went to BuzzFeed News, also a first-ever Pulitzer award for the outlet, for its coverage of the Xinjiang internment camps in China.

The UK got another news channel on Sunday as GB News launched, bringing “more viewers than BBC or Sky News channels” for its launch.

The new channel has been widely described as right-leaning and compared to Fox News. It seeks to bring “US-style opinionated TV news to the UK.” Although GB News rejects comparison to Fox News, it doesn’t deny the channel plans to focus on covering culture wars Britain and the West are embroiled in. 

As CNN notes, GB News “already appears to be living up to its aggressively “anti-woke” positioning.” Several major companies pulled out their ads from the new channel; IKEA, for example, suggested that GB News “[is] not in line with our humanistic values and vision to side with the many people.”

The Hungarian government continued an assault on media freedom with the country’s new anti-LGBTQI+ bill. On Tuesday, the parliament approved the bill that would ban media organisations and advertisers from “displaying or promoting” homosexuality and gender change to children. 

The country’s biggest broadcasters criticized the law as an infringement of media freedom and the law was condemned by numerous European leaders. Even some classic movies and TV shows, such as “Friends” or some Harry Potter films, could be banned or restricted by the law.

As Reuters notes, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his ruling party “have increasingly railed against LGBTQI+ people and immigrants as part of their self-styled illiberal regime, which has deeply divided Hungarians.” The new law has resemblance with the infamous 2013 Russian law that bans “propaganda of homosexuality.”

More from The Fix: Press Freedom in 2021: A freer Europe with a rotting core / Copy-alt-paste: Welcome to Hungary’s right-wing Facebook “Hundub”  

Press freedom is also deteriorating rapidly in Hong Kong.

A year ago, the government imposed an unprecedented national security law imposing significant restrictions on media freedom. This week, it used the law to arrest five leaders of Apple Daily, a pro-democracy newspaper.

The police accused Apple Daily’s editors and executives of participating in a “conspiracy” with foreign countries to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and China. Over 200 police officers raided Apple Daily’s offices, and the authorities froze over $2 million in assets of companies connected to Apple Daily. The newspaper’s founder Jimmy Lai is already in jail since 2020.
As The Economist notes, “the political climate in Hong Kong has changed dramatically since the central government imposed the security law.” The city still enjoys considerably more freedoms than mainland China, but it dropped from 54th to 80th in the Press Freedom Index over the past decade.

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Photo by Artur Kornakov on Unsplash

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