Autocrats’ attacks a tribute to independent media’s power



The ultimate, most severe threats to a free press come from governments, which, to justify their actions, have seized opportunistically on causes ranging from requiring platforms to moderate posts to cracking down on “fake news” to imposing new licensing requirements, media columnist Ben Smith writes for The Times.

The reporters and editors of this global generation of digital start-ups are, pound for pound, the most impressive journalists in the world, he writes. The attacks on them are a tribute to their power, to an independence that reflects the best promise of the internet and to the threats they pose to corrupt and autocratic leaders.

He cites such cases as the Russian site Meduza (above); Maria Ressa, the co-founder of the Filipino site Rappler, Steven Gan, the co-founder and editor in chief of Malaysia’s most important political news site Malaysiakini; and Lina Attalah, the editor in chief of one of Egypt’s few remaining independent voices, Mada Masr.


“Mada is one of the Middle East’s real treasures,” said Amy Hawthorne, a deputy director of research at the Project on Middle East Democracy, a partner of the National Endowment for Democracy. “It is probably the single most important publication for every Egypt-watcher or Egypt expert I know.”

Independent media voices such as those noted above, including NED partners, may be under pressure now, but…..

Their high-impact, low-cost model is seen as “the future of journalism in places where investigative or accountability journalism is difficult,” says Joel Simon, the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. RTWT

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