35 Leaders, Groups Listed as ‘Predators of Press Freedom’

Turkish President Erdogan, Saudi Arabia's King Salman, and the Islamic State Terror Group are recent additions to the list of "Predators of Press Freedom" released by Reporters without Borders to mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists Wednesday.

Reporters Without Borders listed 35 politicians, religious leaders, militias, and criminal organizations in a unique online gallery with "hunting permits" for each, detailing how and to what extent they "prey" on the media.

Some leaders, such as Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro, are accused of "carefully orchestrated censorship and economic asphyxiation" of the press, while others, such as Islamic State and a number of African dictators, are outright accused of murdering journalists.

But beyond literal murders, the "kill tally" listed on each predator's profile also documents how many media outlets they have shut down. For example, the state of emergency declared in Turkey after the military coup in July gave President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the power to shut down more than 100 newspapers, magazines, TV channels, and radio stations, in addition to arresting more than 200 journalists.

China's Xi Jinping also makes the list, having been declared a predator since 2013. One hundred journalists and bloggers are currently jailed, making China "the world's biggest prison for media personnel", according to Reporters without Borders.

Though Reporters without Borders only tallies four journalists currently imprisoned in Russia, Vladimir Putin has also been on the list since 2000, and the report claims there is currently less freedom of expression in Russia than any time since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Burundi's Pierre Nkurunziza was only listed a predator in the past year, but has shut down all independent media and put over 100 journalists in exile since a coup attempt in May 2015.

Non-governmental groups such as al-Shabab in Somalia, which has murdered "several dozen" journalists, the Los Zetas criminal cartel in Mexico charged with the killings or disappearances of dozens of journalists, the Ansarullah Bangla Team a radical Islamist movement in Bangladesh that killed four bloggers in 2015 are listed.

As well as Pakistan's Intelligence Agencies that have murdered at least three journalists, Yemen's Houthi rebels who have held at least 13 media workers hostage in Sanaa, the Taliban that has killed seven journalists in 2016 in Afghanistan, and Islamic State, which has beheaded at least three journalists in Syria in addition to murdering dozens of journalists and media workers in Iraq and Syria.

"These predators are the ones who most trample on media freedom and commit the worst atrocities against journalists without being held to account," RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. "The way to break the vicious cycle of impunity is to appoint a United Nations special representative for protecting journalists."

The International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists is recognized by the United Nations every November 2nd.

"I pay tribute to the courage of all media personnel who put their lives on the line for the sake of truth," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said in a statement. "And I call for immediate action to secure justice in cases where journalists were attacked, harassed or killed."

Source: Voice of America.