The Slippery Slope of Press Freedom Crackdowns
Governments that choose the path of media repression often pass by familiar landmarks as they descend into authoritarian rule.
Many countries have suffered dramatic declines in press freedom over the past decade or more, according to the latest edition of Freedom House’s annual Freedom of the Press report. But each has fallen from a different starting point, resulting in a great variety of media environments.
While it would be a mistake to suggest that conditions in all of these countries are the same, there are certain echoes and patterns in their governments’ actions as they expand their crackdowns on the press: Restrictive new legislation is adopted. Private owners are pressured into selling their outlets or firing their staff. Journalists are attacked or imprisoned.
In the examples below, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez began their assaults on the media many years ago, and both countries’ media environments are now designated Not Free, but their regimes continue to take repressive actions today. Hungary is one of the more recent battlegrounds for press freedom, deteriorating sharply since 2010. Poland’s decline began only at the end of 2015, and already the same sorts of practices have started to appear.
Analyses and recommendations offered by the authors do not necessarily reflect those of Freedom House.
The news that the government of Ecuador granted political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has quite properly triggered numerous commentaries on the irony—or better yet, hypocrisy—of Assange seeking help from Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa, one of the world’s leading adversaries of press freedom. Assange made his bid for asylum after the British authorities agreed to deport him to Sweden, where he has been charged with sexually assaulting two women.
We've included in this blog post a shortened version of the Ecuador chapter from Freedom of the Press 2012, which covers the year 2011.
Azerbaijan has suffered the greatest decline in democratic governance among Eurasian countries over the past decade.
For much of the past decade, global press freedom has been in retreat. This may seem counterintuitive in an era marked by the constant development and refinement of new communication technologies. Yet even as the internet, blogs, microblogs, mobile-telephone videos, and other forms of new media are reshaping the information landscape, governments are finding new and more sophisticated ways to control news coverage and manipulate political discourse.