(The six front marchers, left to right: Binyamin Netanyahu, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, François Hollande, Angela Merkel, Donald Tusk, Mahmoud Abbas)
You probably saw the headlines about world leaders coming together, locking arms, and leading the march down the streets of Paris in the picture you can see above. The march was too show support for the slain Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, who were killed in what many are calling “France’s 9/11”. Turns out they weren’t ‘leading’ anything and the whole thing was a carefully staged photo-op, but its power and perfunctory message nevertheless inspired a lot of coverage.
There’s only one problem: The leaders who proudly marched for freedom of speech and the press have absolutely no interest in them back home. Below is a short list of the things these staunch free speech defenders have done to curtail or outright ban free speech and expression, carefully composed in part by Daniel Wickham, who you can follow on Twitter here, and with the knowledge of Jeremy Scahill, who you can follow on Twitter here.
Every single one of those heads of state or representatives of governments have waged their own wars against journalists – Jeremy Scahill
Countries listed here are in order of how much press freedom Reporters Without Borders estimates they have (best to worst, basically).
Enda Kenny, Irish Taoiseach [Source]
Ireland currently ranks 16th out of 180 places on RWB’s Press Freedom Index.
Irish law now considers blasphemy – saying things which are “grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion” – to be a offence that can be punished with fines of up to €25,000.
Donald Tusk, former Polish Prime Minister and current President of the EU Council [Source]
Poland currently ranks 19th out of 180 places on RWB’s Press Freedom Index.
While Tusk was Polish head of state, Warsaw police raided the headquarters of a magazine, Wprost, that had been critical of the government, in order to ‘secure’ recordings of government officials which could embarrass the ruling party if they were made public. When employees refused to hand over their laptops, raiding police tried to destroy them.
The UK currently ranks 33rd out of 180 places on RWB’s Press Freedom Index.
Surveillance state critic Glenn Greenwald and his partner were met with a hostile, over-bearing response when they entered the UK. Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, was detained for nine hours at Heathrow Airport under the Terrorism Act.
David Cameron himself personally oversaw the intimidation and bully tactics at the Guardian newspaper, which recieved threats from police officials if it didn’t cease reporting on UK and American spying activities. A senior government official claiming to represent Cameron’s office also ordered the Guardian to destroy material it had relating to Edward Snowden’s whistle-blowing.
If he is re-elected, Cameron also has plans to stop “encrypted” messaging services like Snapchat and WhatsApp from ignoring government requests for information.
The U.S. currently ranks 46th out of 180 places on RWB’s Press Freedom Index.
Barack Obama’s orders held journalist and cleric Abdulelah Haider Shaye in prison for years after he reported on civilian casualties caused by U.S. drone strikes in Yemen.
Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Hajj was held in Guantanamo Bay for years as U.S. officials attempted to prove a connection between Al Jazeera and Al-Qaeda.
Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly were both violently arrested in Ferguson as riot police attempted to shut down all news coming out of the area. There is also evidence that riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at Al Jazeera journalists during the early stages of the protests.
Mahamadou Issoufou, Nigerien President [Source]
Niger currently ranks 48th out of 180 places on RWB’s Press Freedom Index.
Niger has been accused of harassing various journalists and the country’s CSC has repeatedly enforced blanket bans on reporting about the troubles in the North, closing down various outlets and generally restricting the flow of information that comes into the country.
Irakli Garibashvili, Georgian Prime Minister [Source]
Georgia currently ranks 84th out of 180 places on RWB’s Press Freedom Index.
Georgian forces recently physically assaulted journalists who were covering on-going protests against Garibashvili’s government, even confiscating one journalist’s camera, and Georgian forces also used tear gas, batons, and rubber bullets against the protesters themselves.
Israel currently ranks 96th out of 180 places on RWB’s Press Freedom Index.
The IDF killed 7 journalists between July and August of 2014, second only to Syria, and has kidnapped numerous journalists it considers ‘Palestinian sympathizers’.
Boyko Borisov, Bulgarian Prime Minister [Source]
Bulgaria currently ranks 100th out of 180 places on RWB’s Press Freedom Index.
Bulgarian forces recently attacked journalists and bloggers who were monitoring an anti-government protest outside the Bulgarian Parliament. Police used batons to subdue the reporters, and others used kicked and punched journalists on the ground and attempted to seize their cameras.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Qatari royalty [Source]
Qatar currently ranks 113th out of 180 places on RWB’s Press Freedom Index.
Qatar’s highest court recently upheld a 15 year jail sentence for poet Mohamed Rashid al-Ajami, after he ‘insulted’ the Emir of Qatar in a poem. Before an appeal was granted, al-Ajami was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, United Arab Emirates Minister of Foreign Affairs [Source]
The UAE currently ranks 118th out of 180 places on RWB’s Press Freedom Index.
UAE officials blindfolded, chained, and kidnapped Egyptian journalist Anas Fouda on suspicion of having ties to the Muslim brotherhood, keeping him in solitary confinement for a month, interrogating him twice.
Ramtane Lamamra, Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs [Source]
Algeria currently ranks 121st out of 180 places on RWB’s Press Freedom Index.
Algeria has held Abdessami’ Abdelhai without charge for 15 months on allegedly helping a fellow journalist, Hicham Aboud, avoid prosecution.
Aboud has previously been charged with “endangering national security, territorial integrity and the proper functioning of national institutions” for discussing the President’s health with the international media.
Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, Malian President [Source]
Mali currently ranks 122nd out of 180 places on RWB’s Press Freedom Index.
Malian forces recently expelled a French journalist after she reported on the army’s alleged human rights violations in a town near Gao. She was forcibly removed from her house and the Malian army accused her of attempting to “ruin the image of the Malian army”.
Mehdi Jomaa, Tunisian Prime Minister [Source]
Tunisia currently ranks 133rd out of 180 places on RWB’s Press Freedom Index.
A military court recently jailed blogger Yassine Ayari on a sentence of three years for “defaming the army” in a series of Facebook posts. Ayari was tried and found guilty in absentia – meaning he didn’t even know he was on trial until his arrest.
The Palestinian Territories currently rank 138th out of 180 places on RWB’s Press Freedom Index.
Areas under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority’s courts have repeatedly jailed people for criticizing or satirizing Mahmoud Abbas. One journalist was found guilty of “harming his excellency the president, disseminating lies, libel and slander and publishing material that spreads seeds of hatred” after he compared Abbas to a Syrian TV villain.
A PA court also found Anas Said Awat guilty of “harming his excellency” after he shared an image on Facebook which compared Abbas to a football player for Real Madrid. He is expected to serve 1 year in prison.
Abdullah II, King of Jordan [Source]
Jordan currently ranks 141st out of 180 places on RWB’s Press Freedom Index.
Last February, the Jordanian government tried to sentence in absentia a Palestinian journalist to fifteen years in prison with hard labour. His crime? ‘Inciting hatred and attacking Jordan’s image and the image of its one nation’.
Last February, Abdullah’s government attempted to extradite and sentence a Palestinian journalist, Mudar Zahran, for ‘inciting hatred and attacking Jordan’s image and the image of its one nation’. A security official is quoted as saying Zahran could face up to 15 years in prison with hard labour.
Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister [Source]
Russia currently ranks 148th out of 180 places on RWB’s Press Freedom Index.
Russia arrested journalist and blogger Dmitry Shipilov last year for “insulting a government servant in the course of his work”.
Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkish Prime Minister [Source]
Turkey currently ranks 154th out of 180 places on RWB’s Press Freedom Index.
Turkey currently holds the record for most journalists in prison, and Turkish penal code laws allow the government to charge journalists who cover banned groups with being members of those banned groups.
Ali Bongo Ondimba, Gambian President [Source]
Gambia currently ranks 155th out of 180 places on RWB’s Press Freedom Index.
Banned anti-government demonstration rallies and judicial police summoned opposition parties for questioning.
Egypt currently ranks 159th out of 180 places on RWB’s Press Freedom Index.
Photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zied has been held in prison for over 500 days, all for the crime of reporting on the forced dismantlement of a protest camp, and is awaiting charges of murder, weapons possession, and ‘disrupting the constitution’.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi presided over the arrest and imprisonment of multiple journalists such as Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste, and advocated for them to be deported instead of imprisoned. Fahmy was denied treatment for a broken arm whilst in prison.
Al Jazeera’s Baher Mohamed was also arrested on a weapons charge for carrying a single spent bullet he picked up from a demonstration, and Egypt recently arrested university students who were carrying out demonstrations. All three of the named men were arrested for ‘conspiring with the Muslim brotherhood to spread false reports’.
Egypt recently arrested and charged student Karim al-Banna with insulting Islam, after he announced he was an atheist on Facebook. He is expected to serve 3 years in prison. Blogger Alber Saber was also previously arrested and charged with blasphemy. He too is expected to serve 3 years.
Bahrain currently ranks 163rd out of 180 places on RWB’s Press Freedom Index.
Bahraini forces have repeatedly intimidated, harassed, assaulted, deported, and imprisoned journalists who cover anti-government protests, and there are currently 3 serving time in prison, making Bahrain second in the world for highest number of imprisoned journalists per capita.
A Bahraini court also acquitted a policewoman who was accused of torturing a journalist, sentenced six people for insulting the King on Twitter, and has closed down many websites.
Dr. Mohammed bin Ismail Al Al-Sheikh, Saudi Ambassador to France [Source]
Saudi Arabia currently ranks 164th out of 180 places on RWB’s Press Freedom Index.
Saudi Arabia recently convicted a liberal blogger of “insulting Islam” after he criticized powerful Saudi clerics, ordering him to be flogged in a public square 50 times, and then flogged again at later intervals (50 lashes, once a week, for 20 weeks).