Intl press freedom watchdog picks year’s top ‘press oppressors’

January 9, 2018 - 9:52 PM
From left: Xi, Trump, Suu Kyi

MANILA, Philippines – An international press freedom watchdog has rolled out its list of world leaders who qualified as “press oppressors” in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s announced intention to bare his own “most dishonest and corrupt media awards of the year.” (

Trump himself was chosen for what was apparently the “top” prize, the “Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom,” by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, which said he “has consistently undermined domestic news outlets and declined to publicly raise freedom of the press with repressive leaders such as (China’s) Xi (Jinping), (Turkey’s Tayip) Erdogan, and (Egypt’s Abdel Fatah el) Sisi,” all of whom were also cited as “oppressors.”

In contrast, the CPJ noted that, “while previous U.S. presidents have each criticized the press to some degree, they have also made public commitments to uphold its essential role in democracy, at home and abroad.”

Among the other leaders cited by the CPJ is Myanmar state counselor and de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel peace laureate who was once the darling of the West that hailed her as an icon of democracy but was dubbed the “biggest backslider in press freedom,” in part for the restrictions on and harassment of journalists seeking to cover the Rohingya crisis, which the United Nations has called “a textbook example of ethic cleansing.”

No Digong in list
President Rodrigo Duterte, who has shown open hostility to media and under whose watch at least five journalists have been murdered so far, did not make the CPJ’s cut.

The media watchdog also pointed out that under Trump, “the Department of Justice has failed to commit to guidelines intended to protect journalists’ sources, and the State Department has proposed to cut funding for international organizations that help buttress international norms in support of free expression.”

But it also blamed “other Western powers” who, with Trump, “fail to pressure the world’s most repressive leaders into improving the climate for press freedom,” thus allowing the number of journalists imprisoned around the world to reach “a record high.”

Response to fake news
The CPJ acknowledged that its dubious recognition of “world leaders who have gone out of their way to attack the press and undermine the norms that support freedom of the media” was in response to the “public discourse of fake news and President Trump’s announcement via Twitter about his planned ‘fake news’ awards ceremony.”

The watchdog was referring to a January 2 tweet by Trump in which he said: “I will be announcing THE MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR on Monday at 5:00 o’clock. Subjects will cover Dishonesty & Bad Reporting in various categories from the Fake News Media. Stay tuned!” (

The winners and runners-up in the other categories selected by the CPJ are:

“Most Thin-Skinned”

Winner – Erdogan (“Turkish authorities have repeatedly charged journalists, news outlets, and social media users for insulting Erdogan, insulting other Turkish leaders, and insulting “Turkishness” in general.”)

Runner-up – Trump (“In response to media coverage critical of him, Trump has threatened to “open-up” U.S. libel laws, sue news outlets, and subject their broadcast licenses to review. He regularly attacks outlets and individual journalists on Twitter and in speeches, calling them “sad,” “failing,” or “garbage.”)

“Most Outrageous Use of Terror Laws Against the Press”

Winner – Erdogan (“Turkey is the world’s worst jailer of journalists, with at least 73 behind bars when CPJ conducted its most recent prison census on December 1.”)

Runner-up – Sisi (“Of at least 20 journalists jailed in Egypt at the time of CPJ’s latest prison census, 18 were charged with, or convicted of, anti-state crimes such as aiding or inciting terrorism or belonging to banned groups.”)

“Tightest Grip on Media” (excluding countries with no independent media like North Korea or Eritrea)

Winner – Xi (“Beijing, under the increasingly iron grip of Xi, uses a combination of traditional censorship and internet controls to keep the news media in line. China is consistently one of the world’s worst jailers of the press; in 2017 it was the second worst globally, with at least 41 journalists in prison.”)

Runner-up – Vladimir Putin, Russia (“Under Putin, independent media has been all but eradicated as journalists experience threats of violence or imprisonment and other types of harassment.”)

“Biggest Backslider in Press Freedom”

Runner-up – Andrzej Duda, Poland (“… the government has taken direct control of public media and announced plans to change regulations in a way that would force foreign owners of news outlets to give up their majority stakes, according to news reports.”)