Press freedom predators: Islamic State, Putin, Erdogan, Aliyev and others

To mark International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has published a grim portrait gallery of 35 presidents, politicians, religious leaders, militias and criminal organizations that censor, imprison, torture or murder journalists.

Most of these press freedom predators have been preying on the media for years, some for decades.

Their predatory techniques vary. Some use enforcers to torture and murder. Some use mass arrests and arbitrary imprisonment. Others employ more sophisticated methods such as terrorism laws, lèse-majesté charges or financial asphyxiation. The list is not exhaustive, naming only those who have distinguished themselves the most in the past year.

As in the past, most of the predators are presidents or prime ministers of such countries as Singapore, Thailand, Cuba, Eritrea, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

The list’s new entrants include Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who now controls most of his country’s media groups.

With regard to religious extremism, the Islamic State stops at nothing to impose terror, kidnapping and murdering journalists who do not swear allegiance, while Bangladesh’s Ansarullah Bangla Team posts lists of alleged blasphemers (secularist bloggers and freethinkers) on Facebook and calls for them to be murdered.

The list includes President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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