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Hatred of journalists turning to violence, watchdog warns

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Hatred of journalists whipped up by populist and authoritarian leaders is degenerating into violence across the world, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) warned Thursday.

And the number of countries where journalists can work safely is plummeting, its annual World Press Freedom Index revealed.

Political leaders’ hostility towards the media “has incited increasingly frequent acts of violence that have fuelled an unprecedented level of fear and danger for journalists,” the report added.

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“If the political debate slides towards a civil war-style atmosphere, where journalists are treated as scapegoats, then democracy is in great danger,” RSF chief Christophe Deloire said.

AFP/File / OZAN KOSE The Paris-based watchdog said it feared that the rising tide of strongman leaders ‘no longer seem to know any limits’, citing the gruesome murder of the Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul

Press freedom was in good health in less than quarter of the 180 countries covered by the index, with the United States sliding to 48th place.

The period since President Donald Trump’s election in 2016 has been one of the “American journalism community’s darkest moments”, the report added.

It linked the president’s “notorious anti-press rhetoric” with “terrifying harassment” aimed particularly at women and journalists of colour.

– Murder and threats –

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“Never before have US journalists been subjected to so many death threats or turned so often to private security firms for protection,” it added.

“Hatred of the media is now such that a gunman walked into the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, in June and killed four journalists and one other staff member,” the report added.

 AFP / Mandel NGAN The report cited last year’s shooting at The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, in which four journalists and one other staff member were killed

The Paris-based watchdog fears that the rising tide of strongman leaders “no longer seem to know any limits”, citing the gruesome murder of the Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

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India, the world’s biggest democracy, slid two notches further into the red zone at 140th place.

Six reporters were murdered there last year and RSF said critics of the Hindu nationalism espoused by its ruling party “are branded as ‘anti-Indian’ in online harassment campaigns”.

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Turkey, the world’s biggest jailer of journalists, was among the worst countries.

RSF said “repression continued to tighten on the few critical outlets that remain”, with its biggest media group taken over by a pro-government conglomerate.

It has also the dubious honour of being the only country to prosecute a journalist for reporting the Paradise Papers offshore investment leaks.

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Russia, which the report branded as another “pioneer of repression”, continued to slide down the table to 149th place.

– Africa’s ups and downs –

Another former Soviet republic, Turkmenistan, has sunk to the very bottom of the ranking, supplanting North Korea because of its “disgraceful… and relentless” repression of reporters.

Its near neighbour Tajikistan, where most of the independent media has been forced to close, fell 12 places, sitting just above Libya, Egypt and Azerbaijan.

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AFP/File / TAUSEEF MUSTAFA India, the world’s biggest democracy, slid two notches further into the red zone at 140th place

But the news was not all bad from the old Soviet empire, with Armenia jumping 19 places to 61st after its “Velvet Revolution” and Kyrgyzstan also climbing 15 after it ended travel bans and the threat of levying “astronomical damages” on reporters.

The previously dire situation across the border in Uzbekistan has also somewhat improved due to the “thaw that began after dictator Islam Karimov’s death in 2016”, the report added.

But there was little to cheer about in China, which remains rooted to the bottom of the list with the fourth worst record.

Totalitarian Eritrea was even worse. Indeed some of the sharpest falls in press freedom were recorded in Africa.

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“Journalists are being attacked with impunity” in Tanzania since the President John “Bulldozer” Magufuli came to power in 2015, RSF warned, branding him a “press freedom predator”.

The east African country fell 25 places, three more than Mauritania, which has locked up a blogger for condemning the use of religion to justify the slavery that is still practised in the vast Saharan country.

AFP/File / NICOLAS ASFOURI China remains rooted to the bottom of the list with the fourth worst record

But the continent also saw some spectacular progress. Ethiopia has jumped 40 places under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, while Gambia shot up 30, continuing the improvement after the departure of dictator Yahya Jammeh.

Angola too has seen steady gains.

The best performing countries continue to be in Scandinavia with Norway, Finland and Sweden taking the top three places.

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CNN’s Don Lemon lists all the facts in Trump’s Ukraine scandal one must ignore to buy the GOP defense

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CNN's Don Lemon on Thursday listed all of the evidence one would have to ignore to believe the Republican defense of President Donald Trump.

The CNN anchor listed the "transcript of the president's infamous July 25th Ukraine call" as one piece of evidence that would have to be ignored.

He also listed the sworn testimony of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. And the "bombshell" testimony from Ambassador Bill Taylor and the text messages between Taylor and Ambassador Gordon Sondland.

The necessity of there not just being an investigation of the Biden family, but an announcement of an investigation, is another inconvenient fact that would have to be ignored, he explained.

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‘Russia is delighted’: Maddow says the elephant in the room is ‘rearing up and stomping its feet’

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The host of "The Rachel Maddow Show" on MSNBC broke down how all of President Donald Trump's decisions in the Ukraine scandal primarily benefited Russia.

"We are in the middle of this impeachment now and it is still unfolding and there is still more to learn and tomorrow is going to be — tomorrow should be a big deal," Maddow noted. "Even just the news tonight is a big deal."

"But even after one day of public hearings so far, the elephant in the room here feels like it’s rearing up and stomping its feet, because who benefits with all these things Trump has done?" Maddow asked. "With all of them. With all this stuff in the middle of the impeachment, but all the other stuff he’s doing simultaneously."

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Trump begs Louisiana for a ‘big win’ after his last-minute rally in Kentucky backfired

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At his last-ditch rally in Louisiana to help the struggling gubernatorial candidacy of GOP businessman Eddie Rispone, President Donald Trump boasted — incorrectly — that his rally in Kentucky narrowed the gap for Gov. Matt Bevin, who lost the race, by 19 points. He then begged voters to give Rispone a "big win."

"We elected everybody," said Trump. "The governor got brought up, in a few short days, 19 points. I went, we made a speech, the whole ticket was there, everybody won big. Governor's a really good guy. But 19 points is a big thing, and he lost by just a few thousand votes. And the headlines next day, Trump took a loss — I lifted him up a lot. But Trump took a loss. So you gotta give me a big win, please, okay? Okay?"

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