Censorship and attacks

Journalism in quarantine


Verbal attacks, arbitrary detention, withdrawal of accreditation... In all parts of the world, authoritarian regimes have been unable to resist using this unprecedented crisis to establish or tighten control over the national media and to step up state censorship. There has been no shortage of pretexts: avoiding panic, combatting alarmist fake news, persuading the public to comply with health directives and, of course, reassuring everyone by projecting the image of a provident and effective government. In a “war” against a public health threat, dissenting voices that question the official version can be portrayed as enemies of a nation in danger.


Two European cartoonists threatened over cartoons with religious and political content

May 14, 2020

Two cartoonists, a Hungarian and a Swede, are targeted by violent online harassment campaigns, because they ridiculed religious and political authorities. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the unacceptable pressures that undermine the right to inform in the heart of Europe.

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Republic of Congo: State TV urged to reinstate news anchor sidelined after coronavirus interview

May 14, 2020

Like the Republic of Congo’s media regulator, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on state TV broadcaster Télé Congo to reinstate Rocil Otouna, who was discreetly sidelined as news anchor after putting some difficult questions about the coronavirus crisis to the justice minister in an interview two weeks ago.

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Bangladeshi journalists, cartoonist, arrested for Covid-19 coverage

May 14, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Bangladeshi authorities to immediately release well-known figures held in connection with their coverage of the coronavirus crisis and to drop all charges against them. At least 12 journalists and bloggers have been charged under the draconian 2018 Digital Security Act since the start of May.

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Turkish journalists arrested for reporting Covid-19 cases

May 11, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns arrests of journalists covering the Covid-19 epidemic in Turkey, where the authorities have been tightening their grip on information since the start of the epidemic.

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Afghan cleric who defied Covid-19 lockdown threatens woman journalist

May 11, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Afghan authorities to protect Vida Saghari, a journalist and women’s rights activist who is being threatened by a fundamentalist cleric in the western city of Herat because she criticized him for holding a religious gathering in violation of the coronavirus lockdown.

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Platforms urged to prevent harassment of journalists covering Covid-19

May 11, 2020

At a time when the media are playing a crucial role in publishing reliable information about the Covid-19 epidemic, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is alarmed by the increase in online harassment of journalists in all parts of the world, often at the behest of politicians and political parties, and calls on digital platforms to step up their efforts to protect journalists.

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China: detained for fighting censorship

May 11, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges Beijing to free three defenders of press freedom who have been detained in Chinese black prisons since April 19 for reposting censored news articles on an open-source website.

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Guatemala. Don’t put the Guatemalan press in quarantine!

May 8, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled by the open hostility that Guatemala’s new president is showing towards the media and calls for more governmental transparency so that journalists can cover the coronavirus pandemic.

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Italy: Release of mafia bosses due to pandemic results in new threats against journalists

May 8, 2020

An Italian journalist covering organised crime who lives under police protection was targeted by a new attack. An early release of dozens of members of the mafia, aimed at containing the spread of the virus in prisons, undermines the past efforts of the Italian judiciary.

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Ukrainian police attack reporter covering protest against Covid-19 lockdown

May 7, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns an assault by Ukrainian police against a reporter who was filming an anti-lockdown protest in Kiev on 29 April and calls on the authorities to enforce the country’s legislation penalizing violence against journalists.

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Malaysian police investigate reporter who covered Covid-19 arrests

May 6, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Malaysian authorities to drop all charges against a reporter who is facing a possible two-year jail sentence on a charge of breaching the peace for covering the mass arrests of migrant workers as part of the country’s efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Kazakh journalists harassed over Covid-19 reporting

April 30, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for an end to the harassment of journalists covering the Covid-19 epidemic in Kazakhstan, where they have been subjected to interrogation, prosecution and violation of the confidentiality of their sources in connection with their reporting.

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RSF compiles 15 coronavirus safety recommendations specifically for Pakistani journalists

April 29, 2020

Amid a rapid surge in the number of Pakistani journalists testing positive to coronavirus, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and its partner, Freedom Network Pakistan (FNPK), have compiled 15 recommendations for Pakistani news media so that they can avoid putting their journalists and employees in danger.

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Coronavirus: RSF denounces China’s censorship on academic publications

April 29, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) denounces China’s recent censorship on some coronavirus publications, a move that may deprive the international community of essential information to fight the pandemic.

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UK: Adjournment of Julian Assange’s US extradition hearing considered amidst coronavirus concerns

April 27, 2020

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s legal team has requested adjournment of his US extradition hearing to allow for adequate preparation of his defence, amidst concerns for his health as COVID-19 reportedly spreads at Belmarsh prison. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates the need for Assange’s immediate release before his health is further jeopardised, and calls for the extradition hearing to be postponed until lockdown conditions are lifted.

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Covid-19 triggers surge in violence, prosecutions against Bangladeshi journalists

April 27, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is alarmed by the increase in cases of civilian and police violence and judicial harassment of journalists trying to cover coronavirus-related issues in Bangladesh in the month since a general lockdown was imposed on the population. Many of the cases are detailed below.

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Tanzanian reporter banned for six months for coronavirus coverage

April 25, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns a series of disproportionate sanctions on Tanzanian media outlets and journalists in connection with their coronavirus coverage and urges the authorities not to reinforce the climate of harassment and fear in Tanzania, where press freedom has declined steadily since 2016.

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US – RSF calls on Trump administration to allow free flow of information on coronavirus

April 23, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is alarmed by the chilling trend of press access denials and retaliatory measures against journalists, government employees and whistleblowers attempting to report on and speak out about the COVID-19 crisis in the United States. It is a matter of urgent public health that journalists freely report on this pandemic and those with information related to the pandemic speak out without fear of retribution.

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Azerbaijani reporter jailed for 30 days over coronavirus reporting

April 22, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate release of Natig Isbatov, an Azerbaijani freelance reporter jailed for allegedly violating lockdown regulations by filming a protest outside an employment office in Baku, and urges the authorities to stop using the public health crisis to crack down harder on critical reporting.

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“Fake news” bill will tighten gag on press freedom in Algeria

April 23, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns an Algerian bill criminalizing “fake news” that “undermines public order and security” or “state security and national unity.” This vaguely worded and draconian legislation is designed to tighten the gag on press freedom, RSF said.

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Russia censors Novaya Gazeta at Chechen leader’s behest

April 17, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the Russian media control agency Roskomnadzor’s "unacceptable" censorship of an article in the leading Moscow investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta about Chechnya’s chaotic and authoritarian management of the coronavirus crisis.

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Iraqi Kurdistan: Wave of arrests of journalists since Covid-19’s arrival

April 17, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for an end to the wave of arrests and harassment of journalists under way in Iraqi Kurdistan since Covid-19 arrived in the region. At least four journalists have been arrested by the Kurdistan Regional Government’s security forces in the past month.

Indonesia used Covid-19 to silence criticism of government

April 16, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is alarmed to learn that Indonesia’s police have been ordered to combat not only disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic but also criticism of the president and government. Linking the two is very dangerous, RSF says, calling on the police to allow journalists to work freely.

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Brazil quarterly analysis. President Bolsonaro’s systematic attempts to reduce the media to silence

April 16, 2020

In the first of a new series of quarterly assessments of press freedom violations in Brazil in 2020, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) examines President Jair Bolsonaro’s strategy for smearing and undermining the journalists and media outlets that annoy him.

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Covid-19 lockdown forces Liberia’s newspapers to suspend printing

April 15, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the government of Liberia to provide financial assistance to the country’s print media, which have had to suspend production of print versions because of a nationwide lockdown that is part of the state of emergency declared by the government on 8 April in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Two Jordanian TV journalists arrested after broadcasting criticism of lockdown

April 14, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate release of two senior Jordanian TV journalists who have been arrested over a news report about the economic impact of a lockdown ordered by the government to combat the spread of Covid-19.

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Salvadorean authorities must not obstruct coronavirus coverage

April 11, 2020

After a series of press freedom violations in El Salvador, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Salvadorean authorities to display more transparency and to allow journalists to do their job of covering the coronavirus pandemic.

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Whistleblowing doctor missing after criticizing Beijing's coronavirus censorship

April 10, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Chinese authorities to urgently clarify the situation of Dr. Ai Fen, a whistleblower who has been unreachable for the past two weeks after giving interviews to the media in which she criticized Beijing’s censorship of information about the coronavirus epidemic.

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Coronavirus: State measures must not allow surveillance of journalists and their sources

April 10, 2020

When governments use mobile phone location and contact data to trace the recent contacts of coronavirus carriers with the aim of containing the spread of the virus, they must ensure that these measures are proportionate, transparent and time-limited and are not used to spy on journalists or violate the confidentiality of their sources, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) warns.

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Wave of attacks on reporters covering coronavirus lockdown in Ukraine

April 10, 2020

After a wave of physical attacks or other acts of intimidation or obstruction of journalists covering the coronavirus lockdown in Ukraine, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the authorities to guarantee the safety of media personnel and to ensure that they are able to report on the coronavirus epidemic.

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Five Zimbabwean reporters arrested while covering coronavirus lockdown

April 10, 2020

Zimbabwe is currently Africa’s biggest press freedom violator in connection with coronavirus crisis, with no fewer than five arrests of journalists in the past 12 days. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Zimbabwean authorities to give the police clear instructions to let journalists work freely instead of detaining them.

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Coronavirus crisis makes reporting even harder in Tajikistan

April 9, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for more transparency and an end to harassment of journalists in Tajikistan, where the authorities insist there are no coronavirus cases and refuse to respond to journalists’ questions about the public health situation, accusing them of "sowing panic."  Two journalists have been questioned at length by the police.

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Cambodia: Hun Sen uses Covid-19 crisis to tighten his grip

April 9, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges Cambodia’s legislators to amend a proposed state of emergency law they are due to vote on in the next few days and, in particular, to eliminate gross violations of the freedom to inform and be informed that could have serious consequences during the coronavirus crisis.

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RSF calls on Trump to end attacks on journalists, encourages news outlets to assess coverage of COVID-19 briefings

April 8, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on President Donald Trump to end the vicious attacks on reporters covering the White House’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. RSF also encourages news organizations to assess their live coverage of the COVID-19 briefings.

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Coronavirus: Spanish government yields to the pressure of journalists and agrees to live press conferences

April 9, 2020

Spanish journalists are finally able to pose their questions to ministers in a live communication and without intermediaries. Thanks to the mobilisation of journalists’ associations, backed by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Spanish government abandoned its practice of asking for questions in writing and in advance.

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Somali officials cannot claim Covid-19 information monopoly, RSF and NUSOJ say

April 7, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the National Union of Somali journalists (NUSOJ) call on the Somali authorities, including federal member states and Somaliland, to refrain from claiming a monopoly of information about the coronavirus crisis and ensure that reporters can fulfil their vital role of informing the public in a free and independent manner.

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Comoros: Journalist threatened for exposing flaws in handling of coronavirus crisis

April 7, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the Comorian government’s threat to prosecute a journalist who revealed the existence of this Indian Ocean archipelago’s first suspected coronavirus cases. The authorities must guarantee the protection of journalists’ sources and not obstruct their work, which is more essential than ever during a public health crisis, RSF said.

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Covid-19 in Africa: RSF joins a coalition of civil society organizations to demand the release of imprisoned journalists on the continent

April 7, 2020

While the Covid-19 pandemic is now hitting Africa with full force, with more than 10,000 cases and nearly 500 deaths, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and 80 rights and press freedom organizations have written to the ten heads of state and government of the African countries which count in their jails journalists arbitrarily imprisoned, asking them to release them without delay.

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Coronavirus: RSF concerned for freedom of the press as Japan declares state of emergency

April 7, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges the Japanese government to exclude the media from the list of companies and associations that could receive its instructions under the state of emergency and asks for a revision of the law to guarantee press freedom at any time.

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Indian newspaper accused of “fake news” about lockdown’s impact on poor

April 7, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns an attempt by the authorities in the Indian city of Varanasi, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, to censor a local newspaper that reported that members of a disadvantaged community near the city were going hungry as a result of the lockdown ordered by the federal government on 24 March in response to the coronavirus epidemic.

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Philippine journalist forced to apologize for criticizing coronavirus “inaction”

April 7, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled to learn that supporters of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte pressured a student newspaper editor into issuing a public apology and, in effect, renouncing his right to free speech after he criticized the government’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic.

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Iraqi regulator wants to suspend Reuters over coronavirus reporting

April 3, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Iraqi authorities to rescind their decision to suspend the Reuters news agency’s licence to operate in Iraq for three months because of an article suggesting that the government was vastly understating the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases.

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Six Ivorian journalists heavily fined in March

April 2, 2020

After a significant fall in press freedom violations in recent years in Côte d’Ivoire, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is disturbed by the heavy and completely unjustified fines imposed on six journalists in summary proceedings in the past month. They send an alarming signal during the Covid-19 pandemic and ahead of the presidential election at the end of 2020.

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Two Philippine journalists face two months in prison for coronavirus reporting

April 2, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on Philippine prosecutors to abandon all proceedings against journalists under a new law that supposedly combats “false information” about the coronavirus crisis but in fact constitutes a grave violation of press freedom.

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Chadian police attack TV crew covering coronavirus measures

April 2, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns Chadian police violence against a national TV crew covering coronavirus-related restrictions on public gatherings, and calls on Chad’s authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure that journalists can cover the pandemic without fear of reprisals.

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Information in Afghanistan, Covid-19 adds to problems from war

April 2, 2020

As the coronavirus spreads in Afghanistan, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Centre for the Protection of Afghan Women Journalists (CPAWJ) are concerned about its impact on the country’s journalists, especially women journalists, who are more vulnerable. They are threatened by economic precarity, the lack of protection and fierce competition between media outlets in the race for the news.

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Coronavirus: RSF condemns curbs on access to news and information online

March 30, 2020

As the Covid-19 epidemic continues to spread across the globe, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on governments that are restricting Internet access and blocking websites to restore the public’s access to information on this vital subject and to allow journalists to use the Internet freely to work and publish their reporting.

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Russia suppresses coronavirus information at home, manipulates it abroad

March 26, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is concerned to see the Russian government stepping up control of domestic reporting in connection with the coronavirus epidemic while, according to the European Union, conducting a disinformation campaign about it internationally. 

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COVID-19 and press freedom: Europe must oppose measures proposed by Viktor Orbán

March 26, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) joins eight other organisations for the defense of freedoms in order to express its profound concern about the risk that governments use the COVID-19 pandemic to undermine fundamental rights and free flow of information. The draft law discussed in Hungary is a step towards a complete repression of press freedom. Yet, the need for media scrutiny is now stronger than ever.

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DRC - Congolese police run down reporter covering coronavirus lockdown

March 26, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the use of violence by police against a reporter who was covering a coronavirus lockdown in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and urges the authorities to allow journalists who respect public health requirements to keep working at a time when reliable, independent reporting is needed more than ever.

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Three Pakistani reporters catch coronavirus

March 23, 2020

After three Pakistani TV journalists who do field reporting tested positive for Covid-19, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Pakistani media to temporarily close their bureaux for the sake of the health of their staff.

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Egypt withdraws British reporter’s press credentials for questioning official coronavirus figures

March 18, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) accuses the Egyptian authorities of reacting disproportionately and abusing their powers by withdrawing a Guardian reporter's press credentials and issuing a warning to a New York Times reporter for questioning the official figures for coronavirus cases in Egypt.

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Detained journalists threatened by spread of coronavirus in Iran’s prisons

March 4, 2020

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is extremely concerned about Iran’s imprisoned journalists, who are denied proper medical care at the best of times and who now risk dying from the coronavirus that is spreading in the country’s prisons.

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Iran concealing coronavirus figures, blocking independent reporting

February 26, 2020

According to Iranian official reports today, the coronavirus epidemic has killed 15 people and infected a total of 95 in the Islamic Republic, which seems to be concealing information about the epidemic in line with China’s example. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns Iran’s persecution of media outlets and journalists publishing independent information.

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