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Weekly Digest: Unfreedom of Speech

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.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released this year’s list of “press freedom predators” – state leaders cracking down on free speech. 

According to RSF, 37 people named are “heads of state or government who trample on press freedom by creating a censorship apparatus, jailing journalists arbitrarily or inciting violence against them.”

The list of European “predators” is hardly surprising. Those are Vladimir Putin of Russia, Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and, for the first time, Viktor Orbán of Hungary. Ramzan Kadyrov, head of Chechen Republic, a Russian region, also seems to have been an obvious choice.

The organisation also highlights that the list includes two women, Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam and Bangladeshi prime minister Sheikh Hasina.

More from The Fix: Press Freedom in 2021: A freer Europe with a rotting core 

The crackdown on free press in Belarus continued this week as the authorities blocked the website of Nasha Niva, one of the country’s oldest newspapers, for its role in covering the protests against Lukashenko’s regime.

The newspaper’s office was raided on Thursday, and its chief editor Yahor Martsinovich was detained. According to Reuters, “at the height of the demonstrations, Nasha Niva published videos showing police brutally detaining protesters.”

More from The Fix: Belarus authorities block the most popular news site in the country / Help needed: what can be done to support Belarusian media  

Spain’s far-right party Vox faced forceful criticism this week for making a “veiled threat” against the editor of satirical magazine El Jueves that often satirises the party.

According to The Guardian, “Vox’s official Twitter account published the person’s name and photograph,” while adding in the tweet that “it’s possible that many of [Spaniards] may begin demanding that he takes responsibility for [spreading hate] when they see him leave his office.”

Although Vox doesn’t hold power in Spain, it does have notable representation in the national parliament and has risen in popularity over the past couple of years. 

This week, the press reported that Saudi Arabia is funding a new digital news platform in the United States as it launched a lobbying effort in the country.

According to CNBC, the platform, which has not been announced yet, will have a studio in Washington, D.C., and “comes as the kingdom has started hiring a new team of lobbyists as the Saudis seek access to President Joe Biden’s administration and the new Congress.”

Saudi Arabia itself is notorious for the condition of the country’s press freedom. Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman – famously involved in the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 – is among the new entrants to the RSF’s “press freedom predators” list.

Photo by David Rodrigo on Unsplash

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