Saturday, March 23, 2019 | ePaper

Trump, Russia and China media attacks `threaten democracy`

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Protestors held a rally to defend press freedom in Manila in January, following accusations of a crackdown by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's government

AFP, Paris :
Press freedom around the world is under threat from a triple whammy of US President Donald Trump, Russia and China's bid to crush all dissent, a watchdog said Wednesday.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) warned that a "climate of hatred and animosity" towards journalists combined with growing attempts to control the media pose a "threat to democracies". Its annual report said that reporters were the target of a growing wave of authoritarianism with leaders whipping up hostility against them.
The group accused the world's three superpowers-the US, China and Russia-of leading the charge against press freedom, with Trump regularly launching personal attacks on reporters and Beijing exporting its "media control model" to strangle dissent elsewhere in Asia.
The slide towards "strongman" and populist politics in Europe, stoked by Moscow, was threatening freedoms in the region where they were once safest, it added, with Hungary, Slovakia and Poland setting off alarm bells.
Czech President Milos Zeman turned up at a press conference with a fake Kalashnikov inscribed with the words "for journalists" while Slovakia's former leader Robert Fico called journalists "filthy anti-Slovak prostitutes" and "idiotic hyenas".
"The unleashing of hatred towards journalists is dangerous and a threat to democracy," RSF chief Christophe Deloire told AFP.
"Political leaders who fuel loathing for reporters... undermine the concept of public debate based on facts instead of propaganda. To dispute the legitimacy of journalism today is to play with extremely dangerous political fire," he added.
RSF said that hostility towards the media is "no longer confined to authoritarian countries such as Turkey and Egypt", but was poisoning the political atmosphere in some of the great democracies.
"More and more democratically elected leaders no longer see the media as part of democracy's essential underpinning, but as an adversary to which they openly display their aversion," the report said, picking out Trump, India's Narendra Modi and Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte for particular criticism.
The US president had referred to reporters as "enemies of the people", a term once used by Stalin, it said.
RSF accused Vladimir Putin's Russia of "stifling independent voices at home... and extending its propaganda network by means of media outlets such as RT (Russian Today) and Sputnik." It had even harsher words for Beijing, saying "Xi Jinping's China is getting closer and closer to a contemporary version of totalitarianism.
"Censorship and surveillance reached unprecedented levels thanks to the massive use of new technology" in his first term in office, the report said.

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