I’m not going to take on the complete review of western states and the state of freedom in each. Quite a few organizations now do that. However, given the interests of EU/NATO in responsible governance and the proper interests of mankind, I may offer this handful of related reports as bellwether to the west’s own degraded and eroding condition as a powerful network of open democracies.
Twenty years ago (almost) on “9/11”, al Qaeda brought a new “Muslim Question” to the fore of Western consciousness, paving the way for an appropriately defensive and primordial response that boosted cultural pride in every EU/NATO state while — with popular approval — bulking up and shaping for each their intelligence, military, and paramilitary forces to meet the challenges posed by lethal non-state actors. In some states, both the patriotic urge, sensible enough, and fear brought home and laced with xenophobia (add ten years later the start of the refugee-herding Syrian Tragedy), promoted a turn to what would become the latest craze in populism, i.e., the New Nationalism.
Well, are democracies family businesses to be managed as private businesses after all?
Have some terrorist struck and — add COVID-19 — stricken democracies become so weak as to fail to defend their own nobility in good citizens against an ignoble collection of, um, less good citizens?
Having drifted far toward a “Reactionary Right” with the support of wealthy interests, some states appear to have regressed from their own once liberating and democratically revolutionary ideals more or less in the direction of feudal power and anachronistic but familiar familial, racial, religious, or tribal conflict.
The Medieval World, so it seems, continues to stalk a few should-be Modern states in relation to either the decline in the civility of their political rhetoric or private-sided degrading of their realpolitik.
It takes a long time to build a nation’s confidence in freedom with a both a civil and extraordinary extraordinary bandwidth in cultural and personal expression and identity while maintaining internal cohesion, coherence, and security.
Some, apparently, have stumbled.
On Feb. 15, Viktor Orbán’s government shut down Klubrádió, one of Hungary’s largest independent radio broadcasters. This comes after a Budapest court upheld a decision by the country’s media regulators to revoke the station’s license, forcing it to exist exclusively online.
Last September, the country’s Media Council, appointed by the Fidesz party, rejected the station’s broadcast permit renewal. Klubrádió allegedly breached laws by missing deadlines to file reports and playing too little Hungarian music. Therefore, the authorities refused to extend its license, which expired on Feb. 14.Frassl, Amina. “Orban Further Restricts Press Freedom in Hungary.” IR Insider, February 18, 2021.
NEW YORK, NOVEMBER 2 – Marking the International Day to End Impunity in Crimes against Journalists, the Italian Mission to the UN recalled that over 1,000 journalists have been killed in the last decade. “We reaffirm our commitment to press freedom and safety and protection of journalists, as cornerstones in achieving the 16th Sustainable Development Goal calling for the promotion of just, peaceful and inclusive societies.
Since the beginning of 2020, 32 media operators where killed on the line of duty, Reporters Without Borders announced today, calling for the establishment of a UN Special Representative to investigate all cases. “If we do not protect journalists, our ability to remain informed and make evidence-based decisions is severely hampered”, the UN Secretary general, Antonio Guterres, said today: “When journalists cannot do their jobs in safety, we lose an important defence against the pandemic of misinformation and disinformation that has spread online.”OnuItalia. “Crimes against journalists: Italy reaffirms commitment to press freedom, safety.” February 1, 2020.
Poland has fallen to 62nd out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index compiled annually by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a leading Paris-based NGO that seeks to promote and defend independent journalism and access to information. It classifies Poland as among the counties that have “a noticeable problem” with press freedom.
This is the fifth year in a row that Poland has recorded a decline in the ranking, all of which have taken place under the current Law and Justice (PiS) government that came to power in late 2015. In that year, Poland had reached a record high of 18th in the index. Now, five years later, it finds itself below Armenia (61st), Niger (57th) and Papua New Guinea (46th).Notes from Poland. “Poland falls to lowest ever position in World Press Freedom Index.” April 21, 2020.
United States of America
The report also pointed a finger at President Trump who, it said, “exacerbates” press freedom problems with his repeated declarations that journalists are an “enemy of the American people,” his accusations of “fake news,” his calls to revoke broadcasting licenses and his efforts to block specific outlets from access to the White House.
“The president’s relentless attacks against the press has created an environment where verbal, physical and online threats and assault against journalists are becoming normalized,” RSF Interim Executive Director Sabine Dolan tells NPR.Ingber, Sasha. “The U.S. Now Ranks As A ‘Problematic’ Place for Journalists.” NPR, April 18, 2019.