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As Trump Attacks Media with “Fake News” Claims, a Record 262 Reporters Are Jailed, 46 Killed in 2017

StoryDecember 29, 2017
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The Committee to Protect Journalists has published its 25th annual survey of journalists killed and jailed around the world. This year, the list of those killed included 42 journalists and four media workers. A record 262 journalists were imprisoned around the world, with Turkey, China and Egypt topping the list for the second year in a row. Mexico reached an historic high in journalists killed this year, and the country leads the world in journalists killed in a non-conflict zone. This comes as President Donald Trump has waged a relentless campaign to discredit journalists in the United States, often with rhetoric that could potentially incite his followers to violence. We speak with María Salazar-Ferro, the director of the Emergencies Department of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We end today’s show with the 25th annual survey from the Committee to Protect Journalists of journalists killed and jailed around the world. This year, the list of those killed includes 46 journalists and media workers, some covering wars, others murdered in retaliation for their reporting, another 20 killed in circumstances CPJ cannot confirm were related to their work; a record 262 journalists imprisoned around the world, with Turkey, China and Egypt topping the list for the second year in a row. Few, if any, of the murders are solved. This comes as President Trump has waged a relentless campaign to discredit journalists in the United States, often with rhetoric that could potentially incite his followers to violence.

For more, we’re joined by María Salazar-Ferro, who is the director of the Committee to Protect Journalists Emergencies Department.

María, welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about what you found. And also, coming out of this interview around Emilio Gutiérrez, the journalist imprisoned in a U.S. jail, can you talk about the dangers Mexican journalists face?

MARÍA SALAZAR-FERRO: Absolutely. There was a record amount of journalists imprisoned this year—262, as you said—around the world. The top three jailers of journalists account for more than half of those journalists. And about three-quarters of journalists in prison around the world are behind bars on anti-state charges, such as terrorism. Interestingly, we noted this year that there is a spike in charges of false news in countries, again—in some of the top countries, like Turkey, China and Egypt.

AMY GOODMAN: In those three top countries—Egypt, China, Turkey—when you talk about—you’re talking about fake news. This is something that President Trump has been pushing around the United States, charging the media with putting it out.

MARÍA SALAZAR-FERRO: Exactly. Last year, we had documented nine cases. This year, we documented 21 around the world on this charge. And, you know, we’re talking about authoritarian governments, but they are holding onto any kind of a reason to imprison journalists. And this kind of rhetoric coming out of President Trump can embolden them, in terms of jailing journalists who are critical of their governments.

AMY GOODMAN: In May, award-winning Mexican reporter Javier Valdez was assassinated, dragged out of his car, shot 12 times, less than a block from his office. The killing of Valdez sparked widespread outrage across Mexico. Multiple Mexican digital media outlets went on a 24-hour strike, refusing to publish anything but a black banner with the names of the journalists assassinated in Mexico at the time. This is a clip of Valdez’s 2011 speech, when he came here to New York to receive the International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

JAVIER VALDEZ: [translated] I have been a journalist these past 21 years, and never before have I suffered or enjoyed it this intensely, nor with so many dangers. In Culiacán, in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico, it is dangerous to be alive. And to do journalism is to tread an invisible line drawn by the bad guys, who are in drug trafficking and in the government, in a field strewn with explosives. This is what most of the country is living through. One must protect oneself from everything and everyone. And there do not seem to be options or salvation, and often there is no one to turn to.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s the award-winning Mexican reporter Javier Valdez. In May, he was gunned down. María?

MARÍA SALAZAR-FERRO: This was a particularly brutal killing and one that touched us personally. As you just saw, Javier was—he received our award, but he was a personal friend of a lot of—a lot of CPJ’s staff. And it was just heartbreaking. I had personally been in touch with him right before this happened.

And I think Javier’s case really shows the degree to which Mexican journalists are vulnerable. I mean, this guy was a renowned investigative journalist, and he really thought that his work and his position kind of protected him. But it didn’t. His reporting put him in more danger, and there was not enough done to protect him.

He was one of six journalists we documented having been targeted in Mexico this year. Mexico is interesting because we noted a decrease in the targeting of journalists, the direct targeting of journalists, in retaliation for their work this year, but—around the world, we saw a decrease. Not so in Mexico. In Mexico, it continued to happen.

AMY GOODMAN: Burma, two Reuters reporters just detained, who could face up to 14 years in prison for allegedly violating the country’s Official Secrets Act?

MARÍA SALAZAR-FERRO: That’s right. That’s a colonial law that is still in the books. They were reporting on the Rohingya crisis and are being accused of having illegally obtained information from police. They face up to 14 years in prison. And like most of what we’re seeing around the world, they’re being punished and silenced for reporting on something critical.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the impunity governments feel? What happens to governments where journalists are killed? What do governments do in Turkey, in China? I mean, these are the governments that are imprisoning them.

MARÍA SALAZAR-FERRO: Right. So, there are—there’s China, Turkey, Egypt—

AMY GOODMAN: Egypt.

MARÍA SALAZAR-FERRO: —that are imprisoning journalists, but there’s also—that’s one problem. Then there’s a second really large problem around the world in terms of being able to do your work as a journalist, and that’s impunity in killings of journalists. That’s a problem that we’ve seen in Mexico continue throughout the last decade. When a government does not punish, does not go after the killers of journalists, this just emboldens more attacks and more killings of journalists.

AMY GOODMAN: What are you calling for at CPJ?

MARÍA SALAZAR-FERRO: In terms of impunity? You know, we’re calling the international community to shed a light on this. And we’re calling on governments, like the government of Mexico, to investigate and punish those who are killing journalists.

AMY GOODMAN: And, overall, these two reports—one on arrests, one on killings—what do you, overall, hope to accomplish?

MARÍA SALAZAR-FERRO: You know, we really think that the international community and pressure, international pressure, is one of the best weapons we have to protect journalists. We are calling on the international community to pressure governments, like the Turkish government, like the Chinese government, to release journalists, and to call on Mexican authorities to investigate, and protect journalists who are doing their job.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you so much for being with us, María Salazar-Ferro, director of the Committee to Protect Journalists Emergencies Department.

And that does it for our show. Democracy Now! now accepting applications for our paid, year-long news fellowship. Details at democracynow.org.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

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