“Around the world new systems of control are taking hold. They are stifling the global conversation and impeding the development of policies and solutions based on an informed understanding of the local realities,” according to Joel Simon, the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
“Repression and violence against journalists is at record levels, and press freedom is in decline,” he writes in his new book, “The New Censorship: Inside the Global Battle for Media Freedom,” outlining four main reasons why this is so:
The first is the rise of elected leaders, such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the leftist Presidents of Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia, who use their power to intimidate independent journalists and make it nearly impossible for them to function. They exploit their democratic mandates to govern as dictators—“democratators,” as Simon calls them. ….
The second source of censorship, according to Simon, is terrorism. …The extreme violence of conflict today is actually amplified by technological progress. Armed groups no longer need to keep journalists alive, because they have their own means of—in the terrible cliché—“telling their story”: they can post their own videos, publish their own online reports, and tweet to their own followers, knowing that the international press will pick up the most sensational stories anyway. …
“The idea that freedom of expression, along with other public liberties, is a specifically Western ideology, rather than a universal right, is increasingly common, from Caracas to Beijing,” Packer notes:
Simon’s book confirms an idea I’ve had about the fate of institutions in the information age. Despite its promise of liberation, democratization, and levelling, the digital revolution, in undermining traditional forms of media, has actually produced a greater concentration of power in fewer hands, with less organized counter-pressure. As a result, the silencing of the press, otherwise known as censorship—whether by elected autocrats, armed extremists, old-fashioned dictators, or prosecutors stopping leaks with electronic evidence—is actually easier and more prevalent today than it was twenty years ago.