Freedom of the Press?

78 journalists were killed in 2017 while doing their jobs. Data from the Committee to Protect Journalists shows that 2018 is likely to be no better – the number of journalists murdered as opposed to killed in war, on dangerous assignments or other incidents is on the rise.

Jamal Khashoggi, killed by Saudi security forces in Istanbul in October, has been one of 31 journalists murdered in 2018. In the previous year 326 journalists were imprisoned for their work by increasingly authoritarian regimes. More than half of those behind bars were held in Turkey, China, and Egypt, often on charges of opposing the state.

Countries like Russia and China have never had democracy or a free Press, and will probably. never have it. There is irony in the fact that, if you spend any time in, say, Egypt you will find plenty of people who are vocal about the “horrors” of British rule (its long gone – and maybe they are right), and yet they seem to put up with a vicious military dictatorship that suppresses free speech. Maybe they would argue that it’s “their” own vicious military dictatorship and they are entitled to it. Turkey was only a democracy for a handful of years. Even Sultans, who brooked no opposition, were better than the power-crazy Erdogan.

We are going through a period that parallels the history of the 1920s and 1930s. Life in both the US and the UK is going to get worse before it gets better. But sometime we will emerge from it. Let us hope that out of it comes a vibrant and free Press – we need it – but one would be stupid to accept bets. People seem to like “strong” men, even if they are uncontrollable, cruel, self-involved, paranoid, and adore the selfish rich. We should be publicising lists of the lazy people who can’t bother to vote when they have the opportunity, and then spend their lives complaining. Voting guarantees nothing, I suppose, but at least it is a declaration of individual liberty, even if it is ignored. Meanwhile, those who do vote need reliable information from a dedicated Press.

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