On Oct. 2 Jamal Khashoggi，Washington Post columnist entered Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to arrange for a marriage certificate, while his fiancé was waiting outside. Unbeknown to him, two separate private planes from Riyadh took off for Istanbul on the same day, with the assassination squad on board that included intelligence officers, soldiers, forensic officials, and autopsy expert. Khashoggi has never been seen again and was allegedly killed and dismembered inside the Consulate.
A As a contributor to Washington post, Khashoggi was critical against Saudi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The well- planned horrific murder, if proven, highlights the growing trend of autocratic regimes in resorting to whatever tools available to silence critical voices, and underscores the vulnerability of freedom of speech and the danger of journalists who practice it.
Independent journalism, which often reveals the dark side of a leadership is the greatest enemy of authoritarian state as it poses threat to the stability of the ruling government. While free press is the pillar of a democratic society, it is in the crosshair of the totalitarian regimes, leaving a growing number of journalists being detained, criminalized and assassinated worldwide.
According to media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), 65 journalists were killed worldwide in 2017, while 326 detained, and 54 held hostage.
An investigative reporter was raped and killed in the city of Ruse, following the death of another two in the EU in the past year. A freelance reporter became the target of Islamic State-inspired beheading; And in an Annapolis newsroom, American journalists were killed in a mass-casualty shooting.
Press freedom met its worst predator in China, and the country is a hell for journalists. According to Reporters Without Borders, 103 journalists are being detained in the country in 2016, exceeding 100 in Turkey, “the biggest prison” for journalists. The most shocking incidents would be the mistreatment and abuse against freedom writer Liu Xiaobao and blogger Yang Tongyan, whom both died from terminal-stage cancer while serving their jail sentences.
While using violence and heavy-handed measures to quell dissidents domestically, China has resorted to soft strategies to gag critics overseas and to crackdown independent voices abroad. Tapping into its vast financial resources, it has increasingly flexed political muscle on media professionals and scholars in foreign countries – from Africa to Canada.
China’s US$60 billion in financing has allowed it to start its media censorship machine across the African continent and destroyed the press freedom in the region. A columnist lost his job at a major South African newspaper chain after he challenged China’s treatment of the Muslim minority. The Chinese authority banned a prominent Kenya scholar from entering the country who planned to deliver a speech critical of China.
Journalists in the Canadian Chinese community are under increasing pressure to promote the interest of the Chinese government, and the defiant few who dare to refuse would face economic mistreatment and abuse. In 2015, a Toronto Chinese language newspaper reportedly fired its chief editor for running articles offending Beijing, under the pressure of Chinese consulate. Publications that bend to China’s financial threat rejected columns critical of China.
In this global war against press freedom, every time a journalist is murdered, jailed or gaged, a piece of democracy dies, and the world moves one more step towards autocrats. However, free press faces its an even more dark reality today as growing materialism throws democracy out the window.
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