Reporters Without Borders, a press watchdog, has placed Viktor Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister on its “predators” list. This is the first time that a Western European leader has been included in the list of heads of state and government who “crackdown massively” on press freedom.
Monday’s list includes 37 leaders.
The list also included the names of two women: the Bangladeshi prime minister and Hong Kong’s administrative head. Also, Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, was added. The watchdog, also known as RSF in French, published the list for the first time since 2005.
According to the report, Orban had “effectively undermined media pluralism since his return to power in 2010” through “various predatory techniques.”
The report stated that although the methods are subtle and brazen, they are always effective. It cited control over 80% by purchasing media from oligarchs who are close to Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party. The report stated that private media in Hungary are denied access to government advertising and discriminated against when it comes to accessing information. They also get denigrated for their “fake news” activities.
Zoltan Kovacs, a spokesperson for the Hungarian government, slammed France-based RSF and said “they should be called Fake News Without Borders’.” Tamas Deutsch (a founding member of Orban’s Fidesz party) wrote on Facebook that the report was part of “the latest wave attacks against Hungary.”
Bin Salman (35-year-old crown prince) of Saudi Arabia who holds day-to-day power within the kingdom is another person who has tried to restrict media freedoms.
His repressive methods include spying on others and making threats, which sometimes lead to torture and abduction. The RSF report stated that Jamal Khashoggi’s murder was a clear example of a predatory approach that is just barbaric.
Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist, visited Istanbul’s consulate to obtain documents for marriage. He was then brutally murdered inside the consulate in 2018.
The list also included women.
The report stated that Carrie Lam, the chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, “has proven to be the puppeteer of Chinese President Xi Jinping and now openly supports him predatory policies toward the media.” It also noted the closing of Hong Kong’s most independent newspaper, Apple Daily, as well as the imprisonment of Jimmy Lai, its founder.
Lam was also joined by Sheikh Hasina (Bangladesh’s prime minister) on the predator list.
RSF stated that her predatory actions included the 2018 adoption of a law on digital security, which has resulted in more than 70 bloggers and journalists being charged.
The chief of the watchdog urged the world’s governments to reject the practices of the leaders it identified and to acknowledge the positive contributions made to the world by independent media.
Christophe Deloire, RSF secretary general, said that leaders he considered predators must be stopped.