FParis-based organization Reporters Without Borders (Rapporteurs sans frontières, or RSF) has published its “predators of press freedom” list to commemorate the UNESCO’s International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, held on Nov. 2.
Several Middle Eastern leaders were included in the list, consisting of 35 heads of state, political and religious leaders, militias, and criminal enterprises which engage in various forms of press suppression, including censorship, imprisonment and torture of journalists, and murder.
“These predators of freedom of information are responsible for the worst abuses against the news media and journalists,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire is quoted as saying in the 2013 edition. “They are becoming more and more effective.”
The list presents satirical but substantive critiques of the various leaders in a gallery format which resembles a “wanted” list.
The data used by RSF comes from their 2016 World Press Freedom Index. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei were featured in it.
“Unrelenting harassment”, reads Khamenei’s “attack technique” section. “Enforcers: revolutionary guards. Favourite targets: all dissenting journalists.” At 169th place, Iran scored even lower than Egypt, with the gallery noting that it has placed “near the bottom of the list ever since the index was created.”
“Iran’s many citizen journalists are watched, harassed, interrogated and often sent to prison, where conditions are appalling“, Khamenei’s profile noted. It also remarked that the situation has worsened in the internet age, with social media activity being monitored and leading to harassment or imprisonment.
“Since the start of 2015, at least 40 journalists have been questioned by the authorities and 15 have been given jail terms”, it says under “kill tally”.
“Since 1989, at least 400 journalists and online information activists have been convicted, and more than 500 have fled the country. 24 independent journalists have been detained.”
Bashar Al-Assad’s entry says that “ever since inheriting the Syrian presidency, Bashar Al-Assad has done everything possible to deserve the title of media freedom enemy and predator.
Long before the start of the uprising and civil war in March 2011, the authorities kept a tight grip on the news reported in the state media and routinely banned foreign from journalists from entering the country…”
“The situation has deteriorated terribly since 2011…A complaint filed in a US court in July 2016 accused the Assad regime’s artillery of deliberately targeting the building from which US journalist Marie Colvin was reporting live on CNN how the regime was orchestrating the bombardment of civilians in Homs.”
It notes that around 200 professional and non-professional journalists have been killed since March 2011 by plainclothes gunmen working for the Assad regime.
“Official discourse: machiavellian cynicism”, it says.
The Assad regime is ranked 177th out of the 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index and is considered the world’s deadliest country for journalists.