Coronavirus a new threat to press freedom, says RSF

“The next decade will be decisive for the future of journalism”, warns the organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which annually assesses the situation of journalism in 180 countries and territories. In the 2020 edition of its World Press Freedom Index, freedom of information is rated “good” (8%) or “fair enough” (18%) in only a quarter of the states, and is deteriorating on all continents.

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Before the spread of the epidemic, RSF had identified five threats to the future of journalism: a geopolitical crisis (driven by authoritarian models that are increasingly repressive towards journalists), technological (lack of digital regulations) with democratic guarantees), democratic (media discredited by the power in place, repressive policies), confidence (suspicion, attacks on journalists) and economic (impoverishment of quality journalism).

A sixth health crisis

“The Covid-19 pandemic highlights and amplifies the multiple crises that threaten the right to free, independent, pluralist and reliable information”, says RSF. The organization establishes “An obvious correlation between the suppression of press freedom during the epidemic and the place of countries in the world ranking”.

In China (177th), repression against journalists and whistleblowers has contributed to the spread of the epidemic, in Wuhan and worldwide. Iran (173rd, – 3), another focus of the epidemic, has set up “ massive censorship systems “. In Iraq (162nd, – 6), the license of the Reuters news agency was suspended after a dispatch calling into question the official figures of the cases of coronavirus.

The “shock doctrine”

For Christophe Deloire, CEO of RSF, “ the health crisis is an opportunity for authoritarian governments to implement the famous “shock doctrine”: take advantage of the neutralization of political life, the amazement of the public and the weakening of mobilization to impose impossible measures at normally adopt

In Brazil (107th, – 2) as in the United States (45th), Presidents Bolsonaro and Trump have increased their hostility towards journalists accused of spreading fear. In Hungary (89th, – 2), Prime Minister Viktor Orbán passed a law called “coronavirus” providing for five-year prison terms for disseminating false information. Journalists have been arrested in Jordan (128th, + 2) or Zimbabwe (127th, + 1).

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In Algeria (146th, – 5), RSF correspondent Khaled Drareni was imprisoned in favor of the epidemic. Hong Kong (80th, – 7) took advantage of its health crisis to arrest fourteen leaders of the pro-democratic movement. RSF is also concerned about the vulnerability of journalists kept in detention in Turkey (154th, + 3) or in Saudi Arabia (170th, + 2) to the virus.

Complaint before the UN

“So that this decisive decade is not a fatal decade, says Christophe Deloire, humans of goodwill, whatever they are, must be mobilize so that journalists can exercise this essential function of being the trusted third parties of companies. “

RSF, for its part, filed a complaint with the UN on April 13, 2020, requesting the denunciation of the states “Who violate the right to information despite, on the pretext or on the occasion of the Coronavirus epidemic, and thus endanger the health of people, on their territory as in the rest of the world”.

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In France

Concerning France (34th), which lost two points, RSF deplores the fact that journalists were injured by LBD or tear gas from the police, and attacked by angry demonstrators by covering the movement of yellow vests . This phenomenon which is developing everywhere in Europe is, according to RSF, “The consequence of hate campaigns and the loss of public confidence in the profession”.

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