Siti Kasim: An Inconvenient Woman

February 13, 2019

Siti Kasim: An Inconvenient Woman

Opinion  |  S. Thayaparan

  Our government does not seem to realise that we have a serious terrorist mentality bred with extreme prejudice inside our society, which needs to be eradicated. This is a serious problem today.—Siti Kasim.

“If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

― Abigail Adams, The Letters of John and Abigail Adams

COMMENT | For those of us who view religious extremism, which is reaching critical levels as the existential threat facing this country, Siti Kasim is the raised middle finger to the religious bigots, fascist crypto-Islamists and race supremacists who have control and influence in this country.

Whether fighting for the rights of women, indigenous people, the LGBTQ community or opposing radical Islam, Siti Kasim has made herself a target for the religious bureaucracy and political operatives in the establishment.

While most Muslims who do not support the darker paths of Islam are content to hope for a moderate agenda from the political and religious elite, Siti openly advocates a progressive agenda for all Malaysians.

In this interview, Siti reminds us why people who read are dangerous to the established order of things, and continues in her efforts to save Malaysia from the political and religious class who view her as a real threat to their dominion.

Siti Kasim is an inconvenient reminder that the progressive forces in this country that could save Malaysia are being marginalised, and that speaking truth to power is problematic in these partisan times.

Do you think the persecution you face is based on the fact that you are a woman questioning religious dogma?

Yes, being an outspoken woman does not sit well with the patriarchy culture of radical Islamism. Also, a woman who does not conform to their view on how a Muslim woman should be.

How do you cope with the harassment you receive?

I try to ignore and focus on my causes. Of course, I can’t run away from reading the nasty messages sent to me, but I take it in my stride and believe that what I am doing is right for my country and my fellow Malaysians. The supportive messages I receive give me the strength to continue, and I know I am on the right path. I thank God for giving me a strong constitution to face all the negativity thrown at me.

What do you think is the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ (AGC) role in the current charges against you?

I am not sure what is the AGC’s role in the current charges against me. (Note: This interview was conducted before the AGC dropped the charges against Siti Kasim for showing her middle finger to hecklers in a forum.) From what’s stated by OCCI Fadzil, he received the endorsement to charge me from the previous AGC. I believe it’s selective persecution against me by certain quarters within the government.

How do you engage with Muslims who believe in the Islamist mode of thinking and believe that sanctions against you are justified?

You have no hope of engaging with them. These are people who are indoctrinated in radical Islamism. The teachings, the mentality of which is no different from that of Talibanism and ISIS terrorists. Only Taliban and ISIS terrorists will sanction others for being different from them. The only difference between them and the Taliban and ISIS is that they have no power or weapons to carry out their threats. When they have those, the country will be torn asunder.

Yet our government does not seem to realise that we have a serious terrorist mentality bred with extreme prejudice inside our society, which needs to be eradicated. This is a serious problem today.

Malay-Muslims are participating in and leading terrorist organisations all around the world. We have groups like Skuad Badar, which is nothing more than a terrorist organisation without weapons terrorising people. We have people like Amri Che Mat and Pastor Koh disappearing in plain daylight and never to be heard again. We should be terrified. Not talking about it is not going to make it go away. We need to tackle it head-on with extreme conviction.

Does being a “liberal” Muslim who appeals to a certain demographic bring with it more problems when engaging in the Islamic discourse?

It should not be. Remember our Rukun Negara has the word ‘liberal’ in it, and it was written by Malay leadership at a time when Malay society needed to progress. In fact, most of the liberal Muslims I know have more knowledge about the Quran than the majority of the Malay population because liberals read more on their own and don’t depend on the cleric class to tell them about their religion.

Do you think that Mujahid Yusof Rawa (photo) is doing enough to offer a counter-narrative in the Islamic discourse in this country?

No. They are still not facing the fact that our religious-bent Malaysian education system is delivering to us every year a more radicalised Islamist generation who are intolerant and increasingly militant in mindset. It is no surprise that PAS is increasing in strength, and UMNO has to be more radical Islamist than before in order to gain Malay votes.

We need to change this mindset by changing education to go back to our secular humanist roots. The roots that made the Malays progressive and more developed in the 80s.

What do you think is the most important issue facing the Orang Asal community in this country and what has the Harapan government done to address this issue?

First, I’d like to correct the usage of Orang Asal and Orang Asli. The ‘Orang Asal’ term is used for Sabah and Sarawak indigenous people, whilst Orang Asli is for those in the peninsula.

The Orang Asli are largely forest or agriculture based, although several individuals have achieved levels of educational and economic success comparable to those of the dominant population.

Nevertheless, it is no hidden secret that the Orang Asli rank among the most marginalised of Malaysians today, not just in terms of numbers, but in their ability to determine their own fate.

The once politically autonomous and independent people are but a pale likeness of their ancestors.

Much of this has to do with the fact that the Malaysian nation state does not recognise the Orang Asli as a separate people – that is, as distinct groups associated with particular territorial bases and requiring ‘government’ on a different basis from that of the other communities.

But, as can be discerned from their demands, the Orang Asli are not, at least not yet, seeking self-determination in the sense that they want to secede from the Malaysian nation-state. Rather, the desire is to exercise full autonomy in their traditional territories, both in the control and ownership of their lands, and in the determination of their way of life and in the way they deal with the dominant society.

The issue of Orang Asli land rights is but the most visible and deeply-felt manifestation of the principal problem facing the Orang Asli viz-a-viz the unwillingness of the state to recognise the Orang Asli as a distinct people.

Using the ‘land rights’ problem as a strategy for Orang Asli political mobilisation is rational because the issue is deeply felt among the communities, easily identifiable, and it is the source of much social stress for the Orang Asli.

With the recent suit which our federal government initiated against the Kelantan state government, it can be seen that the Pakatan Harapan government is attempting to correct the wrongs. We have also seen more Orang Asli senators being appointed when they came into power.

From our engagement with the current government, we can see there is a lot more improvement than before, at least with the current minister in charge of Orang Asli Affairs. We hope the Harapan government will continue with its determination in trying to solve our Orang Asli problems.

Do you believe that Harapan has a moderate Islamic agenda?

They have, but they do not know how to go about it. They do not have the leadership for it. The political will is missing. I will be talking in more detail on this subject in my column soon.

Do you think it is important for non-Muslims to speak up when they witness Islamic transgressions or does this make the situation worse?

Yes. We need them to stand up for fellow Malaysians, and Malays who are being persecuted by the conservative Islamist authorities, to ensure Malaysia will always be the home for their children and grandchildren to live in and prosper. When any public policy is based on any religious ideology, every citizen must have the right to speak up about it.

Is the press doing its part in highlighting Islamic provocations?

No. It has not done enough to highlight and criticise.

Why do think “moderate” Muslims are afraid to speak up?

Just look at the social media comments by their so-called fellow Muslims against anyone who does not conform to them. The amount of vile comments, threats of sanctions, harassment, persecution and even threat of physical harm by the Islamist elements in Malay society are enough to scare away and silence many Muslims.

Do you think the Malay community needs Islamic departments at state and federal levels?

Under ideal conditions, the answer would have been ‘no’, but in our environment we need a federal department that can monitor and revamp radical Islamic teaching that is going on today to abolish them. That should be their job. We don’t need them to do dakwah (proselytisation). No government should be using tax money to propagate any religion.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he is one of the founding members of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessar

Know the Difference– Being Jewish and Being Zionist

January 28, 2019

Know the Difference– Being Jewish and Being Zionist

by Dr. Kua Kia Soong


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At the outset, let me make it clear that as far as the Palestinian cause is concerned, I am on the same page as Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, although I cannot vouch for his consistency on all the other non-Muslim liberation causes in the rest of the world.

What is disturbing is that through the years, we have witnessed Mahathir’s deliberate refusal to make any distinction between the Jewish people and the ideology of Zionism.

This has huge consequences for how our prime minister stands on racism and racial discrimination in our own country. Those who have followed his political career will note the continuity in his ethos and it was not unexpected that he should once again create a similar rumpus recently on the international stage by conflating Jews with Zionism.

Unashamedly racist paradigm

Mahathir’s first claim to fame (or rather, notoriety) was the publication of his “Malay Dilemma” after the May 13th 1969 racial riots in Kuala Lumpur.

It was banned by the then Tunku–led government when it first appeared and Mahathir was expelled from the ruling UMNO. Apart from being an academic embarrassment because of its unashamedly racist paradigm, it was clearly “seditious” by the definition of the government-of-the-day in its undermining of sacred constitutional provisions:

…the Malays are the rightful owners of Malaya…immigrants (read non-Malay Malaysians) are guests until properly absorbed…immigrants are not truly absorbed until they have abandoned the language and culture of their past.”–Dr.Mahathir Mohamad

Mahathir’s ‘Malay Dilemma’ was an instant hit among the emergent state capitalists in UMNO who were hungry for power since it provided the instant recipe for them to rally populist support for their bid for power just before May 13, 1969. It was the time-tested recipe for opportunistic politicians to use ‘race’ as the rallying cry for political support just as Hitler’s racist polemic, “Mein Kampf” had provided the model for such a political route.

Since the demise of Hitler and his race-steeped ideology and the price paid in blood by the freedom-loving peoples of the world, racism, racial discrimination and other forms of intolerance have been outlawed in the world community by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights 1948, the International Convention on the Eradication of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) 1965 and the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) in 2001.

Although Malaysia has yet to ratify I-CERD, we are signatories to all these UN treaties.

Glad to be labelled anti-Semitic!

But why is Mahathir so recalcitrant about his blatantly racist attitude towards Jewish people as an ethnic community?

“I am glad to be labelled anti-Semitic,” Mahathir wrote in 2012 on his personal blog. “How can I be otherwise when the Jews who so often talk of the horrors they suffered during the Holocaust show the same Nazi cruelty and hard-heartedness.”

He wrote in his 1970 book “The Malay Dilemma” that “the Jews are not merely hook-nosed, but understand money instinctively.” He was not embarrassed about repeating this recently on international cable TV.

Not all Jews support Zionism

Much of Malaysians’ antipathy towards Israel can be attributed to our government’s longstanding support for the Palestinian cause. But Mahathir’s rancour extends far beyond geopolitics, spanning anti-Semitism of yesteryears including alleging international Jewish conspiracies to blaming the 1997 Asian financial crisis on a Jew, George Soros:

“The Jews rule this world by proxy,” he told the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit in 2003.

If Mahathir had studied abroad as I have, he would have come across many Jewish academics, students and politicians who are anti-Zionist activists.


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One of the most notable anti-Zionists and pro-Palestinian activists is, of course, Noam Chomsky.

One of the most notable anti-Zionists and pro-Palestinian activists is, of course, Noam Chomsky. There is even a Palestinian solidarity group called ‘Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP) based in Britain that advocates for human and civil rights, and economic and political freedom, for the Palestinian people. It opposes the current policy of Israel towards the Palestinian territories, particularly the territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and seeks a change in their political status. The membership of JfJfP is primarily made up of British Jews.

“Zionism is itself a racist nationalist movement that has had as its goal the creation and support of a Jewish national state in Palestine. Certainly, not all Jews support Zionism nor do they support Israel’s discriminatory and repressive actions against Palestinians. “–Dr.Kua Kia Soong.

More Jews live outside of Israel and not every inhabitant of Israel is Jewish; there are also many non-Jews living in Israel. Many Jews, both living in Israel and elsewhere support a Palestinian state alongside Israel as a possible solution to the conflict. In other words, not all Jews identify with Zionism and it is mischievous to conflate ‘Jews’ with ‘Israelis’ and ‘Zionists’ just as it is wrong to say that “all ethnic Chinese in Malaysia are rich” or that “all Chinese must be held responsible for the persecution of the Uighurs in Xinjiang, China”.

Likewise, Mahathir’s stereotyping of ethnic Chinese

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Much of Mahathir’s portrayal of Chinese Malaysians echoes his stereotypical anti-Semitic slurs. In his ‘Malay Dilemma’, Mahathir describes Malaysia’s Chinese as “predatory immigrants” who exhibit an “unlimited acquisitiveness” that threatens the “complete Sinicization of the economy.” They are mistrusted as disloyal and mercenary, enriching themselves at the expense of the country’s other communities. Has he ever shown remorse and rectified his racist thesis in the “Malay Dilemma”?

Ostensibly to “correct the racial imbalance”, the New Economic Policy has provided a carte blanche for the new Malay ruling class to amass wealth in the name of their “race”. Mahathir has justified this blatantly racist policy thus:

“The best way to keep the shares in bumiputera hands is to hand them over to the bumiputeras most capable of retaining them, which means the well-to-do.”

Today, race has been so deeply institutionalised that it is a key factor determining benefits from government development policies, bids for business contracts, education policy, social policy, cultural policy, entry into educational institutions, discounts for purchasing houses and other official policies. Practically every aspect of Malaysian life is permeated by the so-called “Bumiputera policy” based on Malay-centrism.

No wonder the time is not ripe to ratify I-CERD

In the decades since, Mahathir has continued to resort to racial chauvinism whenever popular support has ebbed, stirring anxiety about Chinese investment and immigration following disappointing electoral showings in 2008 and 2013. He castigated Najib for “giving too much to the Chinese” after the disastrous GE13 results.

The recent anti-ICERD rallies organised by UMNO and PAS have now given the prime minister the excuse to say the country is not yet ready to ratify ICERD. The real question is: Is Mahathir ready to eradicate racism, racial discrimination and related intolerances from his own mental paradigm?

As someone has said, “Wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with age. Sometimes age just shows up all by itself!”

Kua Kia Soong is the adviser to Suaram.

The views of the writer do not necessarily reflect those of FMT


Malaysian Islam seen through 3 men

January 21, 2019

Malaysian Islam seen through 3 men

I wish to present three perspectives of Islam concerning the concept of choosing a “leader” in Malaysia.

This article is inspired by Abdul Hadi Awang’s clarion call to Muslims to choose his narrow-minded brand of Islam, perhaps for the upcoming Cameron Highland by-election.

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I will describe the views of Hadi, Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, and Muslim scholar Dr Farouk Musa, who heads the Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF).

Each has given three different views of what is considered appropriate leadership within an Islamic framework of their choice.

This article is specifically for Malaysians to contemplate the type of Islam existing in Malaysia that will determine the course of our nation in the coming decades.

Hadi Awang

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To Hadi, non-Muslims can NEVER be trusted at all, now and forever. To him, even if the non-Muslim looks “clean” he would eventually be corrupted simply because he is not a Muslim.

To Hadi, non-Muslims can NEVER be trusted at all, now and forever. To him, even if the non-Muslim looks “clean” he would eventually be corrupted simply because he is not a Muslim.

Simple. Clear. Concise. At whichever leadership position there is, whether for a head teacher, an elected representative, a district officer, a minister, a vice-chancellor and especially, the prime minister, the choice must always and forever be Muslim, no two ways about it.

It seems Hadi can clearly see the fate of everyone, Muslim and non-Muslim, because even the Prophet has said that no one knows their fate except Allah.


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In a lecture posted on YouTube, the Perlis mufti was asked whether one can choose a non-Muslim leader or not. To me, for Malays to be asking that very question speaks volumes about the failed state of our education system for the past 60 years.

Asri gave what to me was a scholarly and clear answer. He firstly clarified that what is haram must be stated clearly, and anything that is not stated in the hadith and the Quran can be considered acceptable.

Democracy has never been stated by the Prophet and by the Quran and so it is not haram to use such a system in choosing a leader by a one-man, one-vote system.

Secondly, he said that the present administrative governance of the leadership in Malaysia is enshrined in the constitution and backed by the Malay rulers. Thus, the laws and guidelines for governance within a Malaysian-Muslim construct are well established and any different levels of leadership cannot decide willy nilly about any whimsical desire.

A head teacher has an SOP, an elected representative has a certain responsibility and jurisdiction, a district officer has his or her regulated guidelines, and so does a minister.

In that regard, a Muslim may choose anyone who is Muslim or non-Muslim for a position of leadership at any level except the topmost one, which is the prime minister of Malaysia.

Ahmad Farouk Musa

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The third view is by far my favourite, the most radical and what I consider the most constitutionally correct.

This view is propagated by Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa, a fierce critic of traditional and state Islam and a proponent of a modern and enlightened Islam for all.

He says that a Muslim must never choose a corrupt, immoral and cruel leader just because he is a Muslim. A Muslim must subscribe to the principle of morality and justice for all by choosing someone trustworthy with the strength and will to do the right thing for all, at all times, regardless of faith, race or status.

If the candidate is a non-Muslim then Muslims must choose him or her over a corrupt Muslim.

What Muslims believe

It was fortunate that Barisan Nasional (BN) had a mutual understanding of electing leaders at all levels of governance by choosing citizens of various races, cultures and faiths.

Malaysians must acknowledge the great debt we owe to BN for ignoring extremist views like those of Hadi. Truly Hadi’s view is destructive to all Malaysians and serves perhaps his egocentric desire for power and prestige as well as financial gratification. Thank you, BN!

The choice of leadership modelled after the likes of Asri has been a precedent that Pakatan Harapan (PH) now emulates. Thank you also to PH for ignoring the views of the ulama who think they are the only ones capable of ruling over Malaysia with their limited education and framework of thinking.

Hadi’s view is perhaps relevant for a small fishing community. However, the great problem that has arisen is that after the Islamic revival movement of the Abim/Ikram era, Muslims are more religious than the days of P Ramlee in the 60s and 70s.

In those days, one out 1,000 Malays would pray regularly. Now one out of 100 Malays will not pray regularly.

Most Malays pray and have access to speeches by narrow-minded teachers, who propagate the Hadi view of leadership.

The proponents of this view are mostly in public universities holding positions of professors and associate professors. If I were to venture a figure in the 60s and 70s, 90% of Muslims would subscribe to the middle view of Asri and only 9% to Hadi and 1% to Farouk’s.

Now, I would venture that 70% of Muslims are with the view of Hadi, 29% with Asri and 1% with Farouk. This breakdown will cost untold hardship in Malaysia’s political scenario.

I would venture that my view and that of Farouk are 50 years ahead of time. The numbers supporting Asri’s view must turn to 70% if we are to move comfortably forward.

If I were to be bold and venture a guess, 100% of non-Muslims would subscribe to Asri’s view of leadership because the non-Malays accept and respect the cultural leadership of the sultan and the history of Tanah Melayu as an important civilisation and heritage.

Malaysians must understand that Asri is educating the Malays in a more moderate and progressive way, while Hadi seeks only discord and conflict as a political tool of power grabbing.

What of Farouk’s radical view of Islam? Well, he and I can wait 50 years. No hurry.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

KEE Thuan Chye on NO Harapan (Useless) GOBIND-DEO

January 21, 2019

KEE Thuan Chye on NO Harapan (Useless) GOBIND-DEO


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When Gobind was in the opposition, he was one of the biggest advocates of free speech and expression. He struck me as being one of the bright sparks of Pakatan Harapan, one of our best hopes for a better Malaysia.

Last October, when he had become part of the Harapan government, he announced that he had presented a proposal to the cabinet to impose a moratorium on the Sedition Act 1948, and that the cabinet had agreed. I applauded him for living up to hopeful expectations.

He also gave the assurance then that the cabinet had made a “decision” to eventually abolish the Act. That was good, it showed that Harapan was on the right road to reform.

But now, look at what has become of him. Is he going to say, “I’m just doing my job”, eh? If he does, I’d say, “Get real.” Because what is frightening about his instruction is that it goes against the idea of a true democracy, the democracy that Harapan has been espousing for Malaysia even before the 14th general election.

The greatest irony

What Gobind is proposing is something that comes out of a police state that does not tolerate opinion on certain issues. Something that he and some of his cabinet colleagues had had a bitter taste of when t

What Gobind is proposing is something that comes out of a police state that does not tolerate opinion on certain issues. Something that he and some of his cabinet colleagues had a bitter taste of when they were still in the opposition…

Threats, Violence, Imprisonments Rise for Journalists

Threats, Violence, Imprisonments Rise for Journalists

by John Berthelsen

It has been a terrible year for journalists worldwide, with the number targeted for murder in reprisal for their reporting having nearly doubled in 2018 to 53 and at least 251 journalists are behind bars for their work, as authoritarian regimes increasingly use imprisonment to silence dissent, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists found.

Reporters Without Borders, the other major press organization, fond even higher totals of journalists murdered, with 63 killed along with 13 “citizen journalists” – bloggers – and five media assistants. The two organizations use different criteria to determine whether reporters were killed in connection with their work.

With US President Donald Trump venting an absolute torrent of charges and abuse against reporters for uncovering his lies, the practice of calling critical reporting “fake news” has spread across the planet to Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Cameroon, Venezuela, Myanmar, Spain. Syria and many other countries to hide human rights abuses, corruption and out-and-out atrocities.

Trump has had a valuable ally in the Fox News Network, owned by Australian Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which has sought to discredit the reporting of virtually all of the major media, do

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In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has sought to put the crusading website Rappler out of business with trumped-up charges of tax evasion. Twelve journalists have been murdered during the first two years of Duterte’s administration. He famously said shortly after his 2016 election that “Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch” when asked how he would address media killings in the country, one of the world’s worst for violence against reporters.

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The pressure on journalists led Time Magazine to name “the guardians” the magazine’s Person of the Year, featuring those who have been targeted for their work, chief among them Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was said to have been murdered in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in October by Saudi agents, apparently because of his critical reporting on the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

Time Managing Editor Edward Felsenthal told CNN “the first move in the authoritarian playbook is the control of information, the suppression of people who try to get the facts out. And we saw that in a major way” in 2018. That led Time to spotlight the legions of journalists who have been targeted because of their work.

Amazingly, Fox News host Laura Ingraham scolded the magazine for choosing journalists who have been targeted, arrested or killed as their “Person of the Year,” calling the decision “transparently self-serving,” and saying there is “something transparently self-serving about journalists giving awards to other journalists.”

China, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia imprisoned more journalists than in 2017 as despots intensified their repression of local journalists, according to the CPJ, and Turkey remained the world’s worst jailer for the third year in a row, with at least 68 behind bars. Austin Tice, who was kidnapped in 2012 while freelancing for the Washingfton Post, remains arguably the longest-imprisoned.

Some 70 percent of journalists have been jailed on anti-state charges and 28 charged with “false news,” CPJ said, an increase from nine in 2016. Politics was the most dangerous beat for journalists, followed by human rights. The number of female journalists behind bars increased, with 33 imprisoned globally, including four in Saudi Arabia who wrote about women’s rights. An increase in the overall number of journalists jailed in China this year is the result in part of Beijing’s persecution of the Uighur ethnic minority.

“The terrible global assault on journalists that has intensified in the past few years shows no sign of abating,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “It is unacceptable that 251 journalists are in jail around the world just for covering the news.  The broader cost is being borne by all those who care about the flow of news and information. The tyrants who use imprisonment to impose censorship cannot be allowed to get away with it.”

Afghanistan, where extremists have stepped up deliberate attacks on journalists, was the deadliest country, with12 killed, the most of any year since the CPJ began keeping track and accounted for much of the increase in journalist murders, CPJ said. At least 53 journalists have died since Jan. 1, of which at least 34 were singled out for murder.  The number of reporters who died in combat or crossfire, however, fell to 11, the lowest since 2011, and deaths on other dangerous assignments, such as covering protests that turn violent (eight this year).

The total is up from 47 killed in all of last year, of which 18 were pinpointed for murder. A total of 50 were killed in 2016. The recent uptick in killings follows two years of decline, but comes as the jailing of journalists hits a sustained high, “adding up to a profound global crisis of press freedom.”

With President Trump’s refusal to believe CIA findings that Khashoggi was murdered at the hands of the Saudi Crown Prince, “Essentially, Trump signaled that countries that do enough business with the United States are free to murder journalists without consequence.”

In Syria, at least nine journalists were killed in each 2017 and 2018, compared with a high of 31 in 2012. In Yemen, three journalists were killed in 2018, and in Iraq, CPJ has not confirmed that any journalists were killed because of their work for the first time since 2012. Elsewhere in the Middle East, two Palestinian journalists were shot and killed by Israeli soldiers while covering protests in the Gaza strip. CPJ is investigating the killing of another 23 journalists in 2018, but so far has not been able to confirm that the motive was journalism in those cases.

The prison census accounts only for journalists in government custody and does not include those who have disappeared or are held captive by non-state actors. Cases including journalists held by Houthi rebels in Yemen and a Ukrainian journalist held by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine are classified as “missing” or “abducted.”

In the US, no journalists were in jail for their work on December 1, although in the past 18 months CPJ has documented or assisted with the cases of at least seven foreign journalists who were held in prolonged detention by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after fleeing threats in their home countries.

Time Person of the Year 2018–RUNNER-UP

Time Person of the Year 2018–RUNNER-UP

The Guardianand the War on Truth

The stout man with the gray goatee and the gentle demeanor dared to disagree with his country’s government. He told the world the truth about its brutality toward those who would speak out. And he was murdered for it.

Every detail of Jamal Khashoggi’s killing made it a sensation: the time stamp on the surveillance video that captured the Saudi journalist entering his country’s Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2; the taxiway images of the private jets bearing his assassins; the bone saw; the reports of his final words, “I can’t breathe,” recorded on audio as the life was choked from him.

But the crime would not have remained atop the world news for two months if not for the epic themes that Khashoggi himself was ever alert to, and spent his life placing before the public. His death laid bare the true nature of a smiling prince, the utter absence of morality in the Saudi-U.S. alliance and—in the cascade of news feeds and alerts, posts and shares and links—the centrality of the question Khashoggi was killed over: Whom do you trust to tell the story?


Khashoggi put his faith in bearing witness. He put it in the field reporting he had done since youth, in the newspaper editorship he was forced out of and in the columns he wrote from lonely exile. “Must we choose,” he asked in the Washington Post in May, “between movie theaters and our rights as citizens to speak out, whether in support of or critical of our government’s actions?”

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Khashoggi had fled his homeland last year even though he actually supported much of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s agenda in Saudi Arabia. What irked the kingdom and marked the journalist for death was Khashoggi’s insistence on coming to that conclusion on his own, tempering it with troubling facts and trusting the public to think for itself.

Such independence is no small thing. It marks the distinction between tyranny and democracy. And in a world where budding authoritarians have advanced by blurring the difference, there was a clarity in the spectacle of a tyrant’s fury visited upon a man armed only with a pen. Because the strongmen of the world only look strong. All despots live in fear of their people. To see genuine strength, look to the spaces where individuals dare to describe what’s going on in front of them.

In the Philippines, a 55-year-old woman named Maria Ressa steers Rappler, an online news site she helped found, through a superstorm of the two most formidable forces in the information universe: social media and a populist President with authoritarian inclinations. Rappler has chronicled the violent drug war and extrajudicial killings of President Rodrigo Duterte that have left some 12,000 people dead, according to a January estimate from Human Rights Watch. The Duterte government refuses to accredit a Rappler journalist to cover it, and in November charged the site with tax fraud, allegations that could send Ressa to prison for up to 10 years.

In Annapolis, Md., staff of the Capital, a newspaper published by Capital Gazette Communications, which traces its history of telling readers about the events in Maryland to before the American Revolution, press on without the five colleagues gunned down in their newsroom on June 28. Still intact, indeed strengthened after the mass shooting, are the bonds of trust and community that for national news outlets have been eroded on strikingly partisan lines, never more than this year. And in prison in Myanmar, two young Reuters reporters remain separated from their wives and children, serving a sentence for defying the ethnic divisions that rend that country. For documenting the deaths of 10 minority Rohingya Muslims, Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone got seven years. The killers they exposed were sentenced to 10. This year brought no shortage of other examples. Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam was jailed for more than 100 days for making “false” and “provocative” statements after criticizing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in an interview about mass protests in Dhaka. In Sudan, freelance journalist Amal Habani was arrested while covering economic protests, detained for 34 days and beaten with electric rods. In Brazil, reporter Patricia Campos Mello was targeted with threats after reporting that supporters of President-elect Jair Bolsonaro had funded a campaign to spread false news stories on WhatsApp. And Victor Mallet, Asia news editor for the Financial Times, was forced out of Hong Kong after inviting an activist to speak at a press club event against the wishes of the Chinese government. Worldwide, a record number of journalists—262 in total—were imprisoned in 2017, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which expects the total to be high again this year. This ought to be a time when democracy leaps forward, an informed citizenry being essential to self-government. Instead, it’s in retreat. Three decades after the Cold War defeat of a blunt and crude autocracy, a more clever brand takes nourishment from the murk that surrounds us. The old-school despot embraced censorship. The modern despot, finding that more difficult, foments mistrust of credible fact, thrives on the confusion loosed by social media and fashions the illusion of legitimacy from supplicants. Modern misinformation, says David Patrikarakos, author of the book War in 140 Characters, titled after the original maximum length of a Twitter post, “does not function like traditional propaganda. It tries to muddy the waters. It tries to sow as much confusion and as much misinformation as possible, so that when people see the truth, they find it harder to recognize.”The story of this assault on truth is, somewhat paradoxically, one of the hardest to tell. “We all learned in our schools that journalists shouldn’t be the story ourselves, but this is, again, not our choice,” says Can Dündar, who, after being charged with revealing state secrets and nearly assassinated as a newspaper editor in Turkey, fled to Germany, where he set up a news site. “This is the world of the strong leaders who hate the free press and truth.”That world is led, in some ways, by a U.S. President whose embrace of despots and attacks on the press has set a troubling tone. “I think the biggest problem that we face right now is that the beacon of democracy, the one that stood up for both human rights and press freedom—the United States—now is very confused,” says Ressa, the Rappler editor. “What are the values of the United States?”

The staff of the Capital Gazette, photographed in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 9, from left: Jimmy DeButts; E.B. (Pat) Furgurson III; Katherine Fominykh; Jeffrey Bill; Joshua McKerrow; Anthony Messenger; Christine H. Gorham; Andrea Chamblee, widow of John McNamara; Rachael Pacella; Selene San Felice; Danielle Ohl; Paul Gillespie; Rick Hutzell; Erin Hardy; Janel Cooley. Moises Saman—Magnum Photos for TIME

The question no longer seems strange, for the same reason a close look at where we get our news no longer sounds like civics-class homework. In normal times, the U.S. news media is so much a part of public life that, like air, it’s almost impossible to make it out. But it has been made conspicuous—by the attacks and routine falsehoods of the President, by social-media behemoths that distribute news but do not produce it and by the emerging reality of what’s at stake.

Efforts to undermine factual truth, and those who honestly seek it out, call into doubt the functioning of democracy. Freedom of speech, after all, was purposefully placed first in the Bill of Rights.

In 2018, journalists took note of what people said, and of what people did. When those two things differed, they took note of that too. The year brought no great change in what they do or how they do it. What changed was how much it matters.


“I can tell you this,” declared Chase Cook, a reporter for the Capital Gazette. “We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.”

Cook’s promise, shared with the world on Twitter, came just a few hours after five of his colleagues were killed. The man charged with their murders had been obsessed with the paper since it wrote about his harassment of a high school classmate—part of its routine coverage of local legal proceedings. He made the office a crime scene. To put the damn paper out, staffers set up laptops in the bed of a pickup in a parking garage across the street.

Khashoggi was a leading journalist in Saudi Arabia for decades before fleeing to the U.S. in 2017. In columns for the Washington Post, he criticized Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s quest for total power and suppression of free speech. On Oct. 2, Khashoggi was murdered by agents of the kingdom inside its Istanbul consulate, while his fiancée waited for him outside.Moises Saman—Magnum Photos for TIME (Source photo: Alamy).

When the next edition arrived—on schedule—the opinion page was blank but for the names of the dead. Gerald Fischman. Rob Hiaasen. John McNamara. Rebecca Smith. Wendi Winters. Beneath their names was a coda that might have been written with a goose quill: “Tomorrow this page will return to its steady purpose of offering our readers informed opinion about the world around them, that they might be better citizens.”

That’s the workaday business of local news. “Community journalists are the only ones who are going to go to your kid’s basketball game,” says Selene San Felice, a Capital Gazette features reporter. “They’re the only ones who are going to cover lifeguard training … They’re the only ones who are going to cover your local elections and tell you exactly what’s going on.”

This passing of valued information is a wholesome essential of self-government. We can’t reason together if we don’t know what we’re talking about. But the information has to be trusted.

It mostly still is, in places like Annapolis, where the Capital Gazette operates. A poll released in August by the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit devoted to improving journalism, found that more than 70% of Americans express either “a fair amount” or “a great deal” of trust in both their local papers and local TV news, even as resources for both continue to shrink. It’s what you might expect of neighbors. At the local level, journalists and community remain mutually reinforcing.

The national media enjoyed the same kind of connection not so long ago. In 1976, 72% of Americans voiced trust in all news outlets (before 1972, whether Americans trusted the news media was not a question Gallup bothered to ask). But while most institutions rode a steady downslope in public confidence in the jaundiced aftermath of Vietnam and Watergate, the national media traveled its own path. There was a split—by party.

‘I’ve been a war-zone correspondent. That is easy compared to what we’re dealing with now.’

Maria Ressa

Maria Ressa
Ressa co-founded the news site Rappler. It has relentlessly covered the brutal drug war of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, including extrajudicial killings that have alarmed human-rights advocates. Duterte has called Rappler “fake news” and banned its reporters from presidential events. The government recently charged Ressa with tax fraud—a move widely viewed as an attempted crackdown on Rappler’s reporting. She faces a possible 10-year sentence. Moises Saman—Magnum Photos for TIME.

“We have an era from the ’70s until about 2000, when both Democrats and Republicans were becoming more skeptical of the press,” says Jonathan Ladd, director of the American Institutional Confidence Poll at Georgetown University. “Then in the past 18 to 20 years, the partisan divide is growing, where most of the continuing decline is on the Republican side.”

The division coincides with the growth of partisan cable news networks. In 1996, Fox News Channel was founded on the assumption that the national media reflected the liberal inclinations of journalists working for it. And surveys did show a lean to the left in their personal politics. Fox was not the first news outlet to thrive by offering news viewers the satisfaction of a shared view of the world—MSNBC, its liberal counterpart, premiered four months earlier—but it was the most strikingly partisan in a television landscape that historically tried not to be.

When TV arrived in homes via physically scarce airwaves, a license to broadcast was deemed a public trust, and the Federal Communications Commission enforced the Fairness Doctrine, which required stations to cover public controversies, and to include more than one side. The hundreds of channels brought by cable rendered the scarcity premise obsolete as justification for regulation (the Fairness Doctrine was repealed in 1987), and the fire hose that is the Internet has washed away the last traces. So it was that TV news went from being a blandly unifying force, confined largely to half-hour nightly newscasts, to a constant companion nudging the country into partisan camps.

Especially around presidential elections. On a fever chart of media trust, the downward slope makes sharp dips every four years, followed by upswings after the President is chosen. But the recovery after 2016 was partial. Republicans remain deeply distrustful of most news outlets. “Even things that are demonstrably true, people are skeptical about, and that’s a pretty dangerous slope to be on,” says Marc Hetherington, a political-science professor at the University of North Carolina and author of Why Trust Matters.

A Bangladeshi police officer grabs the mouth of photographer Shahidul Alam, preventing him from speaking to the press during a court appearance in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Aug. 6. Alam was arrested after criticizing the government in an interview. Suvra Kanti Das.

Most journalists are under no illusions about their infallibility. They make mistakes, every day. The framing of “fake news” posits that any errors are intentional, a coordinated campaign to deceive. Less discussed—and contrasting sharply with the lies of autocrats—is the speed with which any good news organization moves to publicly correct and acknowledge its mistakes.

“People assume the worst about journalism,” says Joy Mayer, director of the Trusting News Project, which works with community news organizations. “They have all these assumptions that we pay our sources, that when we talk about anonymous sources, we don’t even know who those sources are. They’re surprised that we have ethics policies and that we have long discussions about which word to use or which photo to use.”

News organizations bear some responsibility for this. The ethos of remaining separate from the story has hindered journalists from explaining how they do their work, warts and all. But some are finding these days that just communicating basic and obvious facts can be a struggle. That’s even harder from a distance. “Freedom of the press starts at the local level,” says Capital editor Rick Hutzell. “At the national level nobody’s listening—they’re all shouting too much.”

Shahidul Alam

Alam, a photographer and activist who has documented human-rights abuses and political upheaval in Bangladesh for over 30 years, was arrested in August for making “false” and “provocative” statements after criticizing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in an interview. He could still face up to 14 years in prison if convicted, but he plans to cover the country’s election on Dec. 30 amid concerns of election rigging. Moises Saman—Magnum Photos for TIME.


The morning after dissident politician Boris Nemtsov was murdered on a Moscow bridge in 2015, employees at a troll farm called the Internet Research Agency opened their work orders: “Create the opinion that Ukrainians could have been mixed up in the death of the Russian opposition figure.” We know about the instruction because some of the few media outlets free of Vladimir Putin’s control—including a news outlet called—got a copy, and posted it online. Otherwise, Nemtsov’s death might have been obscured entirely by the haze of charge, countercharge, links and conspiracy theory that autocrats encourage, because they obscure testable reality and the activism it might inspire


In the U.S., hyperconnectivity means the country can be targeted by misinformation from anywhere. The same Internet Research Agency was named in the federal indictment handed up to a U.S. District Court in February, charging Putin’s allies with mass-producing posts that aimed to affect the 2016 presidential election.

By then, the U.S. intelligence agencies and Justice Department had concluded that Russian operatives seeded Facebook with uncounted posts intended to help the Trump campaign and sow dissent among supporters of Hillary Clinton. Bloomberg News revealed that, with the help of Facebook employees, the Trump campaign used nonpublic “dark” posts to discourage some African Americans from voting.

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, known by her pen name Mother Mushroom, is a Vietnamese blogger who drew attention for criticizing the Communist Party–controlled government. In 2017, she was sentenced to 10 years in prison for “propaganda against the state.” In October, Quynh was released in a freedom-for-exile deal. Now in the U.S., she vows to continue highlighting abuses in her home country. Moises Saman—Magnum Photos for TIME.
In March, the New York Times and Britain’s Observer reported that Facebook had allowed private data from up to 87 million users to reach Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy founded by a billionaire backer of Trump. The data was used to promote his candidacy without users knowing the source.
“I had the immediate association with the brainwashing of the communist regime,” says Vera Jourova, the European Union Commissioner for Justice, who grew up in communist Czechoslovakia. “When you are targeted with this misinformation through your mailbox or Facebook account, without having a clue that someone is trying to influence you, the result is the same. So that was my first instinct: My God, we have to stop this. This is turning into a totalitarian arrangement.”
Information on social media turns out to be hugely problematic. Facebook, like other social media, makes money by keeping people on the platform. To do so, its software—the algorithms that determine what shows up on your screen—frequently delivers content in a way that promotes political polarization. Some of the problem is mixing civics with kid pictures, “social” and society. For the same reason that people avoid political discussion at Thanksgiving, Facebook users may tend not to “friend” people with opposing views. But even if they do, Facebook will suppress their views in your news feed—by 5% among conservatives, and 8% for liberals, according to University of North Carolina information sciences professor Zeynep Tufekci’s analysis of a study by Facebook data scientists. That unseen suppression occurs on top of people’s conscious decisions not to click on things they disagree with.
In the same study, those decisions limited exposure to diverse opinions by 6% for liberals and by 17% for conservatives.Facebook has said it is changing its algorithms to promote “meaningful” social interactions and working to limit fake news on the platform.Two-thirds of American adults say they get news from social media. In a 2018 survey by Gallup and the Knight Foundation, Americans said they regard 65% of information on social media as “misinformation.”

Dulcina Parra covers crime as a radio reporter in Los Mochis, a city in Mexico’s Sinaloa state that has been ravaged by drug violence. This year she worked to publicize the efforts of Las Rastreadoras de El Fuerte, a group of mothers devoted to searching for those believed to have been abducted or killed by cartels—a number estimated at more than 37,000. In 2009 she herself was kidnapped after investigating threats to doctors at a local hospital amid gang clashes. Moises Saman—Magnum Photos for TIME.
Machines are not friends of civic engagement. Within the bubbles they help us build, the algorithms tend to promote negative messages. “Fear and anger produce a lot more engagement and sharing than joy,” early Facebook investor turned critic Roger McNamee wrote in the Washington Monthly. BuzzFeed reported shortly after Trump’s election that “top fake election news stories generated more total engagement on Facebook than top election stories from 19 major news outlets combined.”
In real life, engagement can mean listening, exchanging opinions, reading faces. In tech, engagement means any activity on the platform, which maximizes profits for companies that sell your attention to advertisers. Print media and TV sell ads too, but their primary product was credibility. As established media companies struggled to adapt their business models to digital, they often lined up to partner with the social-media companies that now controlled the audience.
Reuters journalists Wa Lone, center front, and Kyaw Soe Oo, center back, after their trial began in Yangon, Myanmar, on Jan. 10. The pair had documented the regime’s ethnic cleansing; their prosecution has been widely viewed as retribution. They were sentenced in September to seven years in prison. Lynn Bo Bo—EPA-EFE/Shutterstock.
In some countries, social media essentially is the Internet.
A Facebook-funded program makes the social-media site free in the Philippines, which means most people are unable to access anything beyond it, as other websites—including news sites—require more expensive data use. “If your mass base gets Facebook for free and thinks it’s the Internet, they don’t realize A) it’s filtered and B) You can’t search,” says Ressa, the Rappler editor.
 Without search, there’s no way to check information.When the Internet started, the goal was empowerment through connection. Now, when Jourova sees senior executives from Google and Facebook, she says her first question is: “‘How will you improve the world which you have spoiled?’ At first they laugh, and then they see that I mean it seriously.
“It’s been a painful period for them,” Jourova says of the Silicon Valley giants. “They underestimated the natural movement and behavior of bad forces.” The other factor is financial, she says. “When you make big money, you can become blind to the moral aspect of what you’re doing.” The E.U. is pushing regulations that would require platforms to remove hate speech and propaganda. Computational propaganda was the term Ressa picked up at a conference: “It is meant to mislead and deceive to create artificial consensus, to manufacture reality.”
Google took the motto “Don’t be evil,” but, like Facebook, makes money by selling our attention. Twenty-one percent of American adults get some of their news from YouTube, a Google company. Its algorithm produces engagement by suggesting (and often auto-playing) videos endlessly, but not randomly. Nor does the site exhibit much evidence of journalistic rigor. On Nov. 27 at 11 a.m., two of the five stories displayed on YouTube’s World News home page were from RT, formerly known as Russia
Today, the Kremlin-backed 24-hour news channel, notorious for its sly disinformation.

‘Some of my Facebook friends attacked me and would ask, ‘Why can’t you control your husband?’ They called him and Kyaw Soe Oo traitors. I have just become numb to it.’

Pan Ei Mon

Pan Ei Mon
Chit Su Win and Pan Ei Mon, photographed here with their children, are the wives of two Reuters journalists who have been jailed in Myanmar since December 2017. The arrest of the two men, Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone, was widely viewed as retribution for their work exposing the regime’s atrocities against the Rohingya minority. Moises Saman—Magnum Photos for TIME.
In a statement, a spokesperson for YouTube said it has worked to change its algorithms over the last year to promote credible news sources and provide more fact-checking resources.
Small wonder that the heaviest users of social media—young people—are the most skeptical of what’s presented to them as news. In groups convened by the Knight Foundation to talk about news and smartphones, teens and college-age Americans said they consider every source biased, except perhaps raw video from cell phones or surveillance cameras. But their appetite for authentic information remains acute. And as they shift from one platform to another, comparing sources and sifting facts, they are basically acting as journalists.
Which says something about the state of the news business in 2018. The Internet was supposed to make reporting more transparent. In a world where readers and viewers can get online and check everything, you’d better show your work. But it wasn’t that simple. The Internet also siphoned away ad revenue—roughly 60% of every digital advertising dollar in the U.S. now goes to Google or Facebook. In recent years, news outlets relied heavily on the platforms to steer audience their way, and in order to find favor on Facebook’s algorithms or a Google search, stories were tweaked for grabby headlines or to elevate the emotional angle. The net effect: fewer and fewer people are actually out reporting—the number of journalists has dropped from 114,000 to 88,000 from 2009 to 2017—while more and more stories recast the same facts in a slightly different way, to provoke reposting on social media.
In the U.S., local newsrooms are disappearing fastest. Since 2004, the U.S. lost nearly 1,800 newspapers, the UNC Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media found in an October report. Half of the 3,143 counties in the U.S. now have just one newspaper, usually a small weekly. Nearly 200 counties have no newspaper. And “between 1,300 and 1,400 communities that had newspapers of their own in 2004 now have no local news coverage at all.”

‘Free journalism in Venezuela is a species in extinction.

Luz Mely Reyes

Luz Mely Reyes
Reyes had covered politics in Venezuela for more than 20 years when she co-founded an independent news site, Efecto Cocuyo (Firefly Effect), amid the country’s political turmoil in 2015. Moises Saman—Magnum Photos for TIME.
For a certain kind of politician, there is an almost liberating genius to framing independent journalists as the enemy. Stray from the truth, and whoever corrects you can be dismissed as “the other side.”
The strategy runs on a dangerous assumption—that we’re not all in this together.A month after taking office, President Trump sat for an interview with Breitbart, the right-wing online news site that had been run by his then chief strategist, Steve Bannon. “The fake media is the opposition party,” the President declared. “The fake media is the enemy of the American people.”
The “enemy” line had been floated 10 days earlier, in a tweet that named the offending news organizations: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”The President may not have known the history of the phrase. It was used in the Soviet Union, to condemn subordinates at the 1930s show trials Joseph Stalin ordered before executing those who had fallen out of favor. “The people” were peasants who had starved after Stalin confiscated grain harvests. The officials were the dictator’s scapegoats.
The Breitbart reporter was interested in defining fake news. He asked: “Can you kind of more clearly define what standards and quality we should expect from those who are doing reporting?”“It’s intent,”
Trump replied.Intent is difficult to assess from outside, but in writing the Constitution a President swears an oath to defend, the Founders made their intentions clear enough: the press is intended to serve the public, and thus serve as a check on government. “The only security of all is in a free press,” wrote Thomas Jefferson, who famously said that given the choice between government and newspapers, he would make do without government (not that he didn’t have his share of criticism for the ways those papers covered him).
Trump’s rhetoric has been embraced by leaders less restrained in their ability to tamp down on reporters.
In Hungary, ahead of elections in April, investigative reporter Andras Dezso embarrassed the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a democratically elected ultranationalist who had solidified power by vilifying immigrants. After state television carried a sensational interview with a woman who told frightening stories of Muslim immigrants, Dezso exposed deep flaws in her account, reporting her ties to Orban’s allies and her record of legal troubles for, one of the shrinking number of outlets not controlled by government loyalists. Police called the reporter in for questioning, taking his fingerprints and mug shot. A court then issued a formal reprimand against him for “misusing” information he had found in public databases.
“The post-truth wave started in Hungary two years before Trump,” says Dezso, who draws a line from the U.S. President’s attacks on the media to the plight of journalists in countries where the U.S. formerly encouraged democracy. “It was very useful for Orban that Trump took up his line against the media. It showed the government here that they can become more aggressive, more bold in their own attacks against us.”
The attacks against the press feed into populism’s dark side. “What Orban did first was cast journalists as his political opponents,” says Dezso. “Not merely chroniclers of the political scene but actors within it. The people then saw us as a pillar of power, and there is a primal pleasure in watching such pillars burned.”’
This is the world of the strong leaders who hate the free press and truth.  When you start defending the truth, you become the story itself.’

Can Dündar

Can Dündar
Dundar, former editor-in-chief of the Turkish opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, lives in exile in Berlin. He fled Turkey in 2016 after he was detained for months and convicted of revealing state secrets over a story he published alleging that Turkey delivered weapons to Islamist militants in Syria. He survived an assassination attempt during the trial and managed to leave the country while appealing the case. Moises Saman—Magnum Photos for TIME.
At least for some. “With polarization, the belief in your own truth has become stronger, and it doesn’t matter if others say it’s a lie,” says Cristina Zahar, executive secretary of the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism. Brazilians in October elected Bolsonaro, a populist reactionary who lambasts major media outlets. “These are new times, really new times,” she says. “And journalists need to find ways to deal with this.”For now, the most prominent U.S. newspapers resist a combat role. “We’re not at war with the Administration. We’re at work,” Washington Post editor Martin Baron has said. And there’s been a lot of work to do.
In the first year of the Trump presidency, 25 top Administration officials and Cabinet members have resigned or been fired—more than triple the percentage of Obama, Clinton and both Bushes, and double that of Reagan—following revelations of conflicts of interest, corruption or other impropriety, many uncovered by reporters. The New York Times dug through 100,000 pages of documents to determine that Trump had received at least $413 million from his father, and participated in “dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud.” The Wall Street Journal revealed candidate Trump had paid $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels, an apparent campaign-finance felony. ProPublica’s release of a recording of children crying in a detention center galvanized public attention on the Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy of separating children from their parents at the border with Mexico.
It’s accountability reporting of the first order, backed by long tradition and legal protections. But those protections have started to crack even in the places where they used to be strongest. Four reporters have been murdered in the European Union since the start of last year. In February, police found the body of Ján Kuciak, a methodical chronicler of corruption in Slovakia, alongside that of his fiancée. The couple, both 27 years old, had been shot at point-blank range inside the modest house they planned to make their family home.
The attack on the Capital Gazette newsroom made the U.S. the fourth-deadliest country for journalists this year, tied with Mexico, notorious for the dangers its journalists face. “You never know when or where you can get smacked,” says Ismael Bojórquez, whose colleague Javier Valdez at the RioDoce, an independent paper in Sinaloa state, notorious as the cradle of narco-trafficking, was killed outside the newspaper’s front door last year. Dulcina Parra, a Sinaloa reporter who emerged alive from a 2009 kidnapping, still goes to work. “I feel it’s part of what I owe society,” she says.
Tatiana Felgengauer, deputy editor for Echo of Moscow, an independent radio station, was stabbed in the neck in October 2017 by a man who forced his way into the station. The attack came after Russian state TV accused Echo of Moscow—and Felgengauer specifically—of working for the U.S. Moises Saman—Magnum Photos for TIME.
It’s when attacks are both political and personal that neutral ground shrinks, and professional truth seekers feel extraordinary pressure to choose a side. Khashoggi rejected the label “dissident,” insisting, “‘I am an independent journalist using his pen for the good of his country,’” his fiancée Hatice Cengiz wrote in the New York Times. In exile, the Turkish journalist Dündar regrets being forced to act as a dissident in the pursuit of truth. In Kiev, Arkady Babchenko decided it was the only choice.
At his old Moscow newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, at least five journalists have been killed since 2000. Babchenko says he knew most of them personally. So when security officers in Ukraine warned him that he was targeted for assassination, he took the threat seriously. Then he says they told him the only way to expose the plot—and remove the threat to others on the hit list—was to fake his own death. Babchenko went along: he was photographed in a pool of pig’s blood, then revealed his living self at a news conference the next day. Suspects were arrested, but the charade left the reporter a pariah to some colleagues, and Babchenko in a new place. Once a week, bodyguards follow him to his talk show, where he discusses Russian affairs before a backdrop of the Kremlin in flames.
Accuracy, fairness, professionalism—the pillars of journalism took root in the U.S. and Britain, spread around the world, and remain the standard. In the U.S., the press retains qualities of a citadel, protected not only by laws and court decisions, but the awareness of the great majority of public officials who serve something larger than themselves.
But dissonance rains down from the top. In November, the White House not only took the unprecedented step of banning a reporter—it then released, as supporting evidence, an apparently doctored video, digitally altered to portray actions that had not occurred. Still more remarkably, the video was first shared by Infowars, the aptly named website of Alex Jones, the fringe conspiracy theorist who traffics in paranoia and illusion.’Freedom of expression is like a jungle now.  We have no laws. You’re not a citizen. You are nothing.’

Amal Habani

Amal Habani
Habani covers government corruption, police abuses and human-rights violations as a freelance journalist in Sudan. Authorities there have detained her 15 times and banned her writing from a major newspaper. In January, she was held for 34 days and assaulted with electric rods for reporting on economic protests. Moises Saman—Magnum Photos for TIME.A U.S. district judge ordered CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta’s press pass returned; Fox News joined the pleadings on the side of the press, and the White House obliged. But days earlier, a Fox host, Sean Hannity, had joined the President on the stage of a campaign rally. The President promotes Fox shows routinely in tweets, and vociferously opposed the merger of CNN parent company Time Warner (a onetime parent of TIME) with AT&T.
The consolidation of the nation’s media outlets is certainly cause for concern. Just five corporations control what most Americans see or hear (in 1983, it was 50). But Trump made no public objection when Sinclair Broadcast Group proposed buying Tribune Media. That merger would have left Sinclair with television stations that reach 72% of U.S. homes—nearly double the percentage allowed by the FCC, which had winked at earlier expansions. Sinclair is an unusual owner, in that it requires stations to carry news reports and commentaries from its central office, packaged to appear local. In March, Sinclair required some 200 anchors to recite a script warning that “some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think.” The website Deadspin captured the Orwellian moment in a chilling compilation video.For the first time in living memory, an element of personal danger has entered coverage of public affairs in America. Bodyguards now escort CNN reporters through Trump rallies, and the network’s Manhattan newsroom was evacuated in October when its mail room found one of the 16 pipe bombs addressed to Trump critics. Police traced the bombs to a Florida man living in a van plastered with Trump stickers.
The heightened risk for journalists in the U.S. still pales compared with those working to report the truth elsewhere. In Myanmar, the friction points in society are ethnic, with an overlay of religion. About 88% of the people are Buddhist. The Rohingya are a small population of Muslims mostly from the state of Rakhine, not far from Bangladesh, the Muslim country that many Burmese regard as the best dwelling place for the Rohingya. Successive governments have refused to give Rohingya citizenship, rendering most stateless. There is an armed separatist movement, a contested history and a state of tension that is almost constant, especially in Rakhine state
Kyaw Soe Oo grew up there. He was raised Buddhist, but did not share the widespread bias against his Rohingya neighbors. “Kyaw Soe Oo believes every human should be treated equally and there should be no discrimination against anyone,” says his wife, Chit Su Win. “He has tried to teach his daughter this value too.” As her mother spoke inside a tidy apartment strewn with toys in Yangon’s Insein township, the 3-year-old sat on her lap, watching Frozen
Once a poet, Kyaw Soe Oo found a passion for journalism. He worked for a local paper, then in 2017 was hired as a reporter for Reuters, the global news agency. He worked closely with Wa Lone, a hard-charging reporter who at 32 is four years older, also Buddhist and also from the provinces. Together, they covered one of the biggest stories in the world that year—the transfer of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya across the border to Bangladesh, pushed out by Burmese forces.
Working in their homeland for a leading international news organization, they walked a line that eluded Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of the government who, before she wielded political power, won a Nobel Prize for Peace for her moral authority. In power, she has remained silent as verified reports pile up of arson, rape and mass executions by military forces against the Rohingya.

When you’re confronted with evil, real evil, you can’t just take your notebook out and ask it for a comment.’

Arkady Babchenko

Arkady Babchenko
Babchenko spent years as a Russian war correspondent, leaving for Kiev in 2017 after his criticism of the Kremlin led to threats against him. Last spring, when Ukraine’s intelligence agency warned of a plot to assassinate him, he faked his own death in a sting operation designed to catch the people paying for the murders—a controversial move in the journalism world. Moises Saman—Magnum Photos for TIME.
On December. 12, 2017, Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone were invited to dinner by a police official. They had been investigating the execution of 10 Rohingya men the official’s unit was involved in.  After the meal, the police handed the reporters some papers, discreetly wrapped in a newspaper. Moments later, the reporters were placed under arrest for possession of the papers, which they had not yet read. In September, Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone were sentenced to seven years in prison. A police captain who testified that they were framed was prosecuted separately.
Whom do you trust? It may seem a wonder that, in a world riven by tribal tensions, national leaders seek division where sturdy bridges already stand, and confusion where clarity can mean the difference between life and death. The world may not be getting worse, only more confused, but in time that distinction can vanish. There is urgent work ahead in shaping a communications system guided not by software but by the judgment of citizens, and the social contract implied in the First Amendment: facts matter.
Not even his wife really understood what Kyaw Soe Oo did for a living. She got a glimmer of the risk involved from a Korean movie they watched together, about a reporter covering a massacre. And then one day in 2017 she went with him into Rakhine, to do some sightseeing in a town that suddenly came under attack from a Rohingya militant group.
“I went with him because I had never been to Maungdaw before,” she says. “I wanted to see Maungdaw. I saw fighting. “I ran. He went to work.” —With reporting by Abigail Abrams, Katie Reilly and Paul Moakley/New York; Abby Vesoulis and Josh Meyer/Washington; Simon Shuster/Kiev; Eli Meixler/Dhaka; Laignee Barron/Yangon; Ioan Grillo/Sinaloa; Joseph Hincks and Feliz Solomon/Hong Kong; and Matt Sandy/Rio de Janeiro.
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