Most of these press freedom predators have been preying on the media for years, some for decades.
To draw attention to the impunity they enjoy, RSF has completed a form for each of these predators. It identifies their favourite attack techniques, their enforcers, their favourite targets, their official discourse ¬– blatant threats by some, complete denial by others – and their kill tally, in some cases only too real.
Each form also gives the – usually very low – ranking of the predator’s country in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index.
Their predatory techniques vary. Some use enforcers to torture and murder. Some use mass arrests and arbitrary imprisonment. Others employ more sophisticated methods such as terrorism laws, lèse-majesté charges or financial asphyxiation. The list is not exhaustive, naming only those who distinguished themselves the most in the past year.
“These predators are the ones who most trample on media freedom and commit the worst atrocities against journalists without being held to account,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “The way to break the vicious cycle of impunity is to appoint a United Nations special representative for protecting journalists.”
New predators replace old ones
As in the past, most of the predators are presidents or prime ministers of such countries as Singapore, Thailand, Cuba, Eritrea, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.
The list’s new entrants include Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who now controls most of his country’s media groups. The state of emergency introduced in July after a failed coup d’état gave him the opportunity to arrest more than 200 journalists and shut down more than 100 newspapers, magazines, TV channels and radio stations.
The fans of mass round-ups and arbitrary detention include Egypt’s Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who was elected president in 2014 after leading the military coup against the Muslim Brotherhood government in July 2013. His regime hounds journalists with any kind of link to the Muslim Brotherhood. Similarly, Prayut Chan-O-Cha, Thailand’s junta chief and prime minister, has been gagging not only journalists, media outlets and bloggers, but also performers, intellectuals, academics and his political opponents ever since he introduced martial law in May 2014.