Outrage over Philippines' decision to shut down Rappler
Also, doxxing in Tunisia, arrests in India and lack of transparency in Brazil.
We hope you’re staying safe and healthy.
In this edition, we look at the recent intimidation tactics used by governments in India, the Philippines and Tunisia to target journalists and activists and undermine their work.
In the Philippines, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and journalist Maria Ressa said Tuesday the Philippine government has ordered her news organization Rappler to shut down. The decision came a day before President Rodrigo Duterte leaves office and incoming President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. assumes the Philippine presidency.
In Tunisia, state-backed defamation campaigns are doxxing female judges and publishing highly sensitive information about their personal lives on Facebook. This tactic is being used by Tunisian President Kais Saied to assert control over the state. Last month, Saied sacked 57 judges in a presidential order.
In India, a journalist was held by the police on charges of hurting religious sentiments. The Editors Guild of India condemned the arrest and said that Mohammed Zubair has worked for years fact-checking news and countering disinformation in India
In Ecuador, over 140 attacks on the press were documented in a two-week strike. Local organizations are blaming a stigmatizing discourse that paints the press as the enemy.
Finally, Google is under pressure for offering less political transparency in Brazil than in other countries. A local campaign wants the company to explain why it offers Brazil more limited mechanisms of political transparency, compared to the tools available to other countries.
If there are updates you would like us to share from your country or region, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Checklist is currently read by over 1000 subscribers. Support us by sharing this issue with friends and colleagues.
The latest top stories
On June 1, Tunisian President Kais Saied sacked 57 judges in a presidential order, a move widely condemned as an attempt to assert control over all three branches of state power. When a group of judges decided to strike and protest the sacking as an illegitimate “purge,” bloggers began to publish highly sensitive personal information about some of the women judges on Facebook — a defamation campaign meant to shame them into silence.
“Online doxxing is not new in Tunisia. It has been used in the past to attack, harass, and intimidate women and queer activists. In January 2021, there were reports of similar malicious attacks after youth-led protests against poverty, social discrimination, and police brutality.”
Philippines authorities have again ordered the shutdown of an investigative news site founded by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa. Rappler is one of the few Philippines media outlets critical of President Rodrigo Duterte's government. The regulator's ruling comes just before Duterte leaves office and is succeeded by his ally Ferdinand Marcos Jr. who won election in May.
"We will continue to work and to do business as usual. We will follow the legal process and continue to stand up for our rights. We will hold the line... We have been harassed, this is intimidation, these are political tactics and we refuse to succumb to them" — Maria Ressa, journalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate and founder of Rappler.
Arrest of journalist in India adds to press freedom concerns (The New York Times)
The Indian authorities on Monday arrested the co-founder of a fact-checking website, reigniting concerns about deteriorating journalistic freedoms in the world’s largest democracy. The journalist, Mohammed Zubair, was held on charges of hurting religious sentiments and promoting enmity between religious groups, the New Delhi police said. The arrest came after an anonymous Twitter user complained that Mr. Zubair, a Muslim, had been disrespectful of a Hindu god in a tweet from 2018.
“This is extremely disturbing because Zubair and his website Alt News have done some exemplary work over the past years in identifying fake news and countering disinformation campaigns, in a very objective and factual manner,” the Editors Guild of India, a journalists’ group, said in a statement.
Google comes under pressure for offering less political transparency in Brazil than in other countries (Valor)
Intervozes and Sleeping Giants Brazil are leading an initiative to combat "fake news". They started an effort with Google to get the company to explain why it offers Brazil more limited mechanisms of political transparency, compared to the tools available to 34 other countries.
According to the document sent to Alphabet´s shareholders, Google's "double standard" puts Brazil and the Brazilian elections "in a position of inequality and inferiority", which would be at odds with principles defended by the United Nations to business and human rights.
Humberto Ribeiro, Legal Director of Sleeping Giants Brazil, said that "They want to give transparency to only a small part, leaving out the vast majority of resources used to boost political content. It is unacceptable that Google treats Brazilians with inequality at a time in which Brazilian democracy is threatened".
Over 140 attacks on the press in two-week strike in Ecuador; organizations blame impunity and stigmatization of journalists (LatAm Journalism Review)
A stigmatizing discourse that paints the press as the enemy and the impunity that reigns over attacks against journalists are the main factors that have made possible the climate of violence experienced by the press in Ecuador in the last two weeks, in the midst of a national strike in that country. Demonstrators demand that the government of President Guillermo Lasso lower fuel prices, cancel debt of Indigenous peoples, set fair prices for agricultural products and increase the health and education budgets, among other demands.
"The State is responsible by omission, in this case. In the decade of Rafael Correa, the government was the main aggressor against the press. But in the two subsequent governments, what has existed is practically complete inaction. No public policy for the protection and security of journalists has been adopted. Everything has remained in proposals, in truncated experiences, such as the creation of a committee for the protection of journalists," — César Ricaurte, director of the organization Fundamedios.
What’s new at Meedan
The new Meedan website is now live!
Visit our website to learn more about Check, our programs, and the latest research on disinformation.