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Authoritarian Leaders Fuel Hatred Toward Journalists Worldwide, Study Finds

A report released Thursday concludes disdain for journalists throughout the world has increased during the past year, due primarily to the behavior of authoritarian leaders.

The 2019 World Press Freedom Index report, conducted by Reporters Without Borders, said “authoritarian regimes continue to tighten their grip on the media,” resulting in a “hatred of journalists” that has “degenerated into violence, contributing to an increase in fear.”

The United States’ ranking in the annual index of press freedom declined for the third time in three years, a result of U.S. President Donald Trump’s regular threats to reporters and his inflammatory remarks about the media, the report said.

The U.S. ranked 48th among the 180 nations and territories that were surveyed, maintaining a descent that started in 2016.  For the first time since the report started in 2002, the United States was included in a category of countries where the treatment of journalists is described as “problematic.”

The report said while a deterioration of the press freedom climate in the U.S. predated Trump’s presidency, the first year of his time in office “has fostered further decline in journalists’ right to report.”  The report cited Trump’s repeated declarations of the news media as an “enemy of the American people,” attempts to deny White House access to “multiple media outlets,” regular use of the term “fake news” in retaliation to critical reporting, and calls to revoke the broadcasting licenses of “certain media outlets.”

It noted that hatred toward reporters prompted a gunman to murder four journalists and another employee last June at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland just east of Washington.  The gunman had mental health issues and was angry with the newspaper for reporting about his pleading guilty to criminal harassment in 2011.   “Amid one of the American journalism community’s darkest moments, President Trump continued to spout his notorious anti-press rhetoric, disparaging and attacking the media at a national level,” the report said.

European countries once again occupied most of the spots at the top of the index.  Norway topped the list for the third consecutive year, followed by Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark.  The United Kingdom ranked 33rd, rising seven spots since last year.  But the report said the U.K. “remained one of the worst-performing countries in Western Europe,” noting its more favorable ranking was due to the sharp deterioration of press freedom in other countries.

The countries at the bottom of the list were dominated by Asian countries.  Turkmenistan ranked 180, topped by North Korea, Eritrea, China and Vietnam in ascending order.

The Americas experienced the most pronounced regional deterioration worldwide, primarily due to the decline of the U.S., Brazil, Mexico, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

The European Union and the Balkans registered the second largest regional deterioration, followed by the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia and the Asia-Pacific.

The findings are based on responses to an 87-question survey that assesses pluralism, media independence and censorship in each country. Government policy was not evaluated. Responses were provided by media representatives, sociologists and attorneys around the world.  Their feedback was integrated into a database of reported abuses and violent acts against journalists.

To access the report in its entirety, visit https://rsf.org/en/ranking_table.



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Evangelical Group Says Laos Has Deported 3 American Missionaries

A U.S.-based Christian evangelical organization says three of its American volunteers who were detained in Laos more than a week ago for proselytizing have been freed and deported.

The operations manager for Vision Beyond Borders, Eric Blievernicht, said in an e-mail that the three crossed into Thailand on Thursday night.

“Our prayers for their release and that they might be home for Easter are being answered,” Blievernicht wrote. He gave no other details.

The missionaries, identified by the Casper, Wyoming-based group only as Wayne, Autumn and Joseph, were detained by Laotian police on April 8 while visiting villages in the northwestern province of Luang Namtha to distribute Gospel tracts and other Christian material.

The website of U.S.-government funded Radio Free Asia, citing an unidentified district policeman, reported Tuesday that the three were detained for handing out religious materials without receiving official permission.

Christians in Laos, especially those carrying out proselytizing work, face pressure from two quarters. The country’s rigid old-style communist government is suspicious of outsiders and seeks to regulate all religions. The mostly Buddhist country’s animist community, usually found in rural areas, also is often hostile.

The U.S. State Department’s 2017 International Religious Freedom Report said about Laos that “Reports continued of authorities, especially in isolated villages, arresting, detaining, and exiling followers of minority religions, particularly Christians.”

Vision Beyond Borders is one of a number of missionary groups that do semi-covert work in countries whose governments are often hostile to Christianity, and are best known for actions like smuggling Bibles into places such as China.

The group says it also helps support poor and orphaned children, provides safe houses for women who have escaped sex trafficking, and has sent refugee relief supplies to the Middle East.

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Filipinos Start Evacuating From Libyan Capital

Philippine diplomats have started evacuating a small group of Filipinos from the Libyan capital after it was hit by a barrage of rocket fire that wounded one Filipino, officials said Thursday.

Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Emmanuel Fernandez said in Manila that three hospital workers and four students were evacuated by Philippine Embassy personnel from Tripoli to Tunisia, where they are to take flights back home.

Manila’s top diplomat in Tripoli, Elmer Cato, said 13 more Filipinos have sought help and are expected to be flown back home in the next few days. But of about 1,000 Filipinos in Tripoli, only 20 have so far asked to be repatriated, including a man who was wounded in the rocket fire late Tuesday in the Libyan capital, he said.

About 50 other Filipino workers have been evacuated to safer areas within Libya by their employers, Cato said.

There are more than 2,000 Filipinos in Libya, mostly working as nurses, teachers and oil industry workers.

“They have to stay here and take the risk because they have to provide for their families back home,” Cato told The Associated Press in a cellphone message, adding that Filipino nurses in Libya are treated well and receive much higher salaries, along with other benefits.

Last week, the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila raised the threat level in Libya’s capital to 3 and urged Filipinos and their dependents in Tripoli and outlying areas to consider leaving temporarily to avoid getting caught in the fighting. If the threat level is raised to 4, the government would have to implement a forced evacuation of Filipinos.

The Philippine labor department has also imposed a ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to Libya, particularly in Tripoli and areas within a 100-kilometer (62-mile) radius of the capital, because of fighting between rival militias for control of the North African nation’s capital.

Many of the Filipinos in Tripoli refuse to return home because they feel the ongoing fighting would eventually ease, but Cato said that after the volleys of rocket fire hit Tripoli for the first time this week, some have started to consider to leave.

The Philippines is one of the world’s major labor providers, with a tenth of its more than 100 million people working abroad, including many house helpers and construction workers. The income they send home has helped the Philippine economy stay afloat in dire economic times.

The wounded Filipino in Tripoli, Rolando Torres, was in his living room when he was startled by two powerful explosions outside his house. He ran to another room to check what happened but before he could open a window, he heard another loud blast, which sent debris flying that wounded him in the forehead, Cato said.

Torres, a warehouse worker, immediately called the Philippine Embassy and was fetched later from his house.

The rocket fire struck a Tripoli community where more than 200 Filipino nurses and their dependents live. They stayed put and treated the wounded, mostly Libyans, in a clinic, Cato said.

On Wednesday night, the Philippine Embassy received reports that rockets struck a hospital south of Tripoli, where 15 Filipino nurses work. Filipino embassy personnel could not reach the Filipinos for hours but later managed to contact the hospital owner, who reported that the Filipinos were fine and would be moved to safety soon, Cato said.

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Indonesia’s Widodo Declares Victory in Presidential Poll

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Thursday he was won re-election after receiving an estimated 54% of the vote, backtracking on an earlier vow to wait for official results after his challenger made improbable claims of victory.

Widodo, after meeting with parties in his coalition, told reporters that the leaders of Malaysia, Singapore, Turkey and numerous other nations have congratulated him on securing a second term.

The vote estimate is based on so-called quick counts of a sample of polling stations by a dozen reputable survey organizations. Widodo said that 100% of sample polling stations have now been counted or close to that. The quick counts have been accurate in previous elections.

“We all know that the QC (quick count) calculation is a scientific calculation method. From the country’s experiences of past elections the accuracy is 99.9%, almost the same as real count results,” Widodo said.

Widodo’s rival, former Gen. Prabowo Subianto, has claimed he won 62% of the vote in Wednesday’s election based on his campaign’s own counts, repeating a similar claim when he lost to Widodo in 2014.

The Election Commission is required to release official results by May 22.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, is an outpost of democracy in a Southeast Asian neighborhood of authoritarian governments and is forecast to be among the world’s biggest economies by 2030. A second term for Widodo, the first Indonesian president from outside the Jakarta elite, could further cement the country’s two decades of democratization.

Subianto, a strident nationalist, ran a fear-based campaign, highlighting what he sees as Indonesia’s weakness and the risk of exploitation by foreign powers or disintegration.

Widodo said he had sent a representative to talk to Subianto and his camp.

“This afternoon I have sent an envoy to meet Prabowo to set a meeting, and if people see our meeting, we will be able to show how the elections have ended smoothly, safely and peacefully,” he said.

The country’s security minister and its military and police chiefs said earlier Thursday that they will crack down on any attempts to disrupt public order while official results from presidential and legislative elections are tabulated.

Security minister Wiranto, who uses a single name, told a news conference with the chiefs of police and all military branches that security forces will “act decisively” against any threats to order and security.

He said the voter turnout of 80.5% gives the winner of the presidential election “high legitimacy.”

National police chief Tito Karnavian said the Election Commission and courts are the appropriate institutions for resolving complaints about the election.

Subianto’s hard-line Muslim supporters plan mass prayers in central Jakarta on Friday but it was unclear if the event will be allowed to go ahead.

“I appeal to everybody not to mobilize, both mobilization to celebrate victory or mobilization about dissatisfaction,” Karnavian said.

The election was a huge logistical exercise with 193 million people eligible to vote, more than 800,000 polling stations and 17 million people involved in ensuring the polls ran smoothly. Helicopters, boats and horses were used to get ballots to remote and inaccessible corners of the archipelago.

Voting ran smoothly, apart from a few districts where logistical problems caused delays, and was peaceful, a remarkable achievement for a country steeped in political violence.

Widodo’s campaign highlighted his progress in poverty reduction and improving Indonesia’s inadequate infrastructure with new ports, toll roads, airports and mass rapid transit. The latter became a reality last month in chronically congested Jakarta with the opening of a subway.


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North Korea: Pompeo Not Welcome at Nuclear Negotiations

Juhyun Lee contributed to this report.

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — North Korea is demanding that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo no longer take part in any further talks involving its nuclear weapons program.

Kwon Jong Gun, a senior official in the North’s foreign ministry, says Pyongyang wants someone who is “more careful and mature in communicating,” according to a report by the official KCNA news agency.

Kwon Jong Gun’s comments were released hours after the regime announced that the North had tested a new “tactical guided weapon,” the latest display of Pyongyang’s military capabilities.

KCNA said Kim Jong Un supervised and guided the Wednesday test, calling it an operation of “very weighty significance.”

The KCNA report did not elaborate on the type of weapon tested, but the phrase “tactical” suggests it is not a ballistic missile.

Still, the test could be seen as a warning to the United States, amid an impasse in talks over North Korea’s nuclear program.

“Kim is trying to make a statement to the Trump administration that his military potential is growing by the day, and that his regime is becoming frustrated with Washington’s lack of flexibility in recent negotiations,” says Harry Kazianis, director of Korean Studies at the Center for the National Interest.

A U.S. military official said late Wednesday the Pentagon is aware of the reported test, but has no further comment.

North Korea has not carried out a nuclear or long-range missile test for well over a year, since Kim began talks with the United States and South Korea.

Instead, the North has carried out smaller provocations. In November, Kim oversaw the test of what KCNA also referred to as a newly developed “high-tech tactical weapon.” U.S. officials later played down the significance of that test.

​Stalled talks

Nuclear negotiations between the United States and North Korea have been stalled since a February meeting in Hanoi between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump ended in no deal.

Trump wants Kim to completely abandon his nuclear weapons program in exchange for sanctions relief. Kim has only offered limited steps toward denuclearization. Kwon Jong Gun warned Thursday that “no one can predict the situation” on the Korean Peninsula if the United States does not give up “the root cause” that led the North to seek nuclear weapons.

Last week, Kim said he was open to another summit with Trump, but warned he would only give the U.S. until the end of the year to change its “approach” to the negotiations.

A North Korean official said last month that Kim is considering resuming missile tests and pulling out of the talks with the United States.

What did North Korea test?

It isn’t clear the weapon North Korea tested Wednesday was even a missile KCNA referred only to a “tactical guided weapon.”

Regardless, the weapon doesn’t appear to have been nuclear-capable, since usually such arms are referred to as “strategic,” rather than “tactical.”

“The design indexes of the tactical guided weapon, whose advantages are appreciated for the peculiar mode of guiding flight and the load of a powerful warhead, were perfectly verified at the test-fire conducted in various modes of firing at different targets,” KCNA said.

“It is likely to be a new cruise missile” with a limited range, says Kim Dong-yub, a North Korea specialist at Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies. “If it is a cruise missile, then it has no relevance with the current sanctions. Existing sanctions only apply to ballistic missiles.”

Increase in provocations?

Even though North Korea’s latest test is not likely a ballistic missile, it is still meant to send a message to Trump, said Vipin Narang, a nuclear expert and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The test amounts to “calibrated signaling to remind us where things can go if we don’t moderate our negotiating position,” Narang says.

It isn’t clear how Trump will respond to North Korea’s latest test. Earlier this week, Trump said talks with North Korea “are moving along just perfectly.”

Meanwhile, commercial satellite photos from last week showed increased activity at North Korea’s main nuclear site, according to a U.S. research organization.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies noted the presence of five specialized railcars at the Yongbyon nuclear complex.

“In the past, these specialized railcars appear to have been associated with the movement of radioactive material or reprocessing campaigns,” the report said.

Also Wednesday, Kim carried out a public inspection of a military unit for the first time in several months, reviewing a flight exercise of the Korean People’s Army.

Kim is expected to meet next week with Russian President Vladimir Putin. With U.S. negotiations stalled, Kim is likely to push Putin to provide economic aid and sanctions relief.

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Колишній президент Перу наклав на себе руки під час арешту у справі про корупцію – відео

Колишній президент Перу Алан Гарсія наклав на себе руки під час арешту. Вранці в середу поліцейські спробували заарештувати його у власному будинку – політика підозрювали в корупції. Гарсія, якому було 69 років, вистрілив собі в голову. Хоча його відразу госпіталізували, він впав у кому. Врятувати його не вдалося. Прихильники політика зібралися біля будівлі лікарні, куди його відвезли. Звістка про його смерть викликала бурю емоцій, люди ледь не прорвали оточення. Алан Гарсія двічі займав пост президента Перу – з 1985 по 1990 рік, і з 2006 по 2011-й. Його звинувачували в отриманні хабарів під час другого терміну – за допомогу в отриманні контрактів на будівництво метро в столиці країни, Лімі. Ім’я Гарсії пов’язували з бразильської будівельною компанією Odebrecht, яка зізналася у шахрайстві. Сам колишній президент всі звинувачення заперечував. (Відео Reuters)

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Зеленський найняв американських лобістів, щоб покращити свій міжнародний імідж

Кандидат у президенти Володимир Зеленський найняв лобістську фірму Signal Group Consulting з Вашингтону, щоб покращити свій міжнародний імідж та організувати зустрічі членів своєї команди з чиновниками в США – відповідне підтвердження журналісти Радіо Свобода отримали від представника компанії Джона Проктера.

За даними журналістів, Зеленський та партія «Слуга народу», яка висунула його кандидатом у президенти, заплатили Signal Group Consulting 60 тисяч доларів.

Signal Group, відповідно до американського законодавства, повинна розкривати інформацію про співпрацю з іноземцями. За даними, які оприлюднила компанія на виконання цього закону, її найняв Маркус Коен від імені Володимира Зеленського, щоб «підняти імідж» Зеленського і його партії.

Читайте також: Коломойський в інтерв’ю «Схемам»: «коли переможе Зеленський, я повернусь в Україну»

За словами Проктера, компанія почала короткотермінову співпрацю з Зеленським минулого тижня. Ця робота передбачає зокрема сприяння зустрічам членів команди кандидата з чиновниками Капітолійського пагорба та адміністрації президента США Дональда Трампа.

Ця співпраця демонструє, наскільки важливо для Зеленського мати підтримку Заходу, сказав Радіо Свобода представник його штабу на умовах анонімності.

За його словами, втім, у Зеленського немає планів відвідувати Вашингтон найближчим часом.

За даними джерел Радіо Свобода в передвиборчому штабі кандидата, компанія Signal Group організовувала зустрічі для голови штабу і лідера партії «Слуга народу» Івана Баканова та економічного радника Олега Дубини.

Читайте також: Соратник Зеленського, що потрапляє під люстрацію, мав таємну зустріч з головою Конституційного суду, який може її скасувати – «Схеми»

Досі не було відомо про те, що член уряду в 2001-2002 роках Дубина є членом передвиборчої команди Зеленського.

У 2007-2010 роках Дубина очолював правління «Нафтогазу». На цій посаді він зокрема підписав газовий контракт із Росією 2009 року.

За офіційними результатами першого туру виборів президента України, за Володимира Зеленського проголосували 30,24% виборців, за чинного главу держави Петра Порошенка – 15,95% виборців. Другий тур відбудеться 21 квітня.​

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Розшукуваний екс-міністр Ставицький навідувався в ізраїльський офіс Коломойського – «Схеми»

Екс-міністр енергетики та вугільної промисловості часів Януковича Едуард Ставицький, якого розшукують в Україні, в Ізраїлі двічі відвідував офіс олігарха Ігоря Коломойського. Це зафіксували журналісти програми «Схеми: корупція в деталях» (спільний проект Радіо Свобода та телеканалу «UA:Перший») у розслідуванні «Бенефіціар».

Ставицький відвідував бізнес-центр у місті Герцлія, у якому розташовується офіс олігарха, два тижні поспіль по п’ятницях – 5-го та 12-го квітня цього року. Перший раз екс-міністр був сам.

У другий – 12-го квітня – вийшов з бізнес-центру у компанії невстановлених чоловіків. В обох випадках, зафіксованих «Схемами», Ставицький перебував в будівлі більше години.

​Встановити, що саме у цій будівлі в Герцлії знаходиться офіс Коломойського, журналістам вдалось за допомогою фотографії в одному із місцевих видань – на якій позує олігарх.

​Сам Ставицький у коментарі «Схемам» спочатку спростував, що був в цей час в Ізраїлі, а потім заявив, що приїжджав в інше місце:

– Ні, такого не могло бути. Я був якраз не в Ізраїлі взагалі.

– В Герцлії, ви відвідували, ми вас бачили.

– Ви бачили мене?

– Так.

– Не знаю… 12-го, може, я заходив… А який офіс? Я з паном Коломойським взагалі зараз не спілкувався.

– 5 квітня та 12 квітня. 5 квітня ви самі приїхали, а 12-го були в компанії трьох чоловіків.

– Я йшов в інше місце. Там же на першому поверсі, я не пам’ятаю…А там в пана Коломойського офіс?

– Так.

– А на якому поверсі і де саме?

– На останньому.

– На останньому? Перепрошую. Не можу нічим допомогти вам.

У свою чергу Коломойський прокоментував візит Ставицького так: «Ставицький тут живе вже шостий рік пішов як. …У нас немає з ним ніякого бізнесу, ніяких справ, ми завжди зустрічаємося в шаббат. У нас є майданчик, де ми відзначаємо шаббат. Ми з ним спілкуємося досить регулярно, але ніякого бізнесу ніяких справ не маємо і ніякі його питання, пов’язані з його проблемами, ми не обговорюємо. Я маю на увазі ті, які склалися за результатами його роботи в Кабміні або де він там працював в кабінеті часів Януковича».

Читайте також: Суд скасував арешт рахунків банку Януковича-молодшого – Сарган

Після перемоги Революції гідності Едуард Ставицький виїхав з України. У березні 2014 року під час обшуків у його приміщеннях, за даними правоохоронців, було знайдено 40 кілограм золота, більше 4 мільйонів доларів готівкою та більше 10 коштовних годинників. Згодом стало відомо, що Едуард Ставицький отримав ізраїльське громадянство, а разом із ним паспорт на ім’я Натан Розенберг, і досі переховується в Ізраїлі від офіційного слідства.

В Україні екс-міністра енергетики підозрюють у зловживанні службовим становищем під час відчуження «Межигір’я».

Хоча сам він неодноразово підкреслював, що справу проти нього вважає сфабрикованою, а сам він у ній є – «стерильним».

Раніше Коломойський в інтерв’ю журналістам «Схем» пообіцяв, що у випадку перемоги Володимира Зеленського на виборах президента України, повернеться в Україну.