WASHINGTON, D.C. – World Press Freedom Day brought Knight Chair and Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent Dana Priest to Washington, D.C. and WAMU-FM’s Diane Rehm Show this morning. Talking with host Lisa Desjardins, Priest was joined on the phone by former student Idrees Ali – who is currently National Security and Foreign Policy Correspondent at Reuters News Agency. Delphine Halgand, U.S. director, Reporters without Borders and Paul Farhi, staff writer for The Washington Post rounded out the panel.
The topic – “The Freedom And Safety Of Reporters Around The World.”
Desjardins set the tone for the program by reporting that more than 200 reporters were killed in 2015 for doing their jobs, and another 200 are imprisoned.
Priest said one can point to several trends attacking journalism since the end of the Soviet Union:
- The Arab Spring nations have gone backwards – their governments imposing a very authoritarian view of the media and cracking down on most independent media;
- The “Putinization of Eastern Europe.” Priest talked of high hopes for Poland, Hungary and even Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. But today, she says Putin and leaders in these countries and others have strangled independent media through intimidation, economic weapons and now increased state-run media to control the dissemination of news.
- The strengthening of organized crime in Mexico, Central America and in some parts of Latin America where “you see a kind of terrorism that is akin to ISIS.”
- The dying off of community newspapers, reporting of state legislatures and at the national level, the “click bate generation of news” where “they’re still trying to get your eyeballs on stories rather than the old-fashioned kind of stories that we used to do.”
Ali called in to the program to talk about Hamid Mir – a famous TV reporter in Pakistan who has faced major challenges covering the Pakistani military and the nation’s spy agency – the ISI. Mir has faced numerous attempts to assassinate him. Ali went to Pakistan to cover Mir’s day-to-day life for the Washington Post. He says that the press is actually very vibrant there about everything save the military.
Ali was a student in Priest’s class that worked on the Press Uncuffed project to highlight the plight of journalists who have been incarcerated around the world.
Listen to the complete WAMU-FM program from the Diane Rehm Show on the WAMU website.