2021 is shaping up as a terrible year for journalists but a great year for autocrats as they tossed reporters into gulags at a record-shattering clip. And it ain't over yet.
The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that 293 reporters were tossed in jail for their work, which is up from 280 in 2020. Twenty four were killed because of their coverage. Another 18 died under mysterious circumstances.
China topped the list as the No. 1 jailer of reporters for the third year in a row. Myanmar, Egypt, Vietnam and Belarus round out the Top 5.
The Committee credits the rise of autocrats, who flout international norms to keep themselves in power, as a key reason for the crackdown of independent reporting. (The Atlantic has a terrific December cover story about Autocracy Inc. and its network of political, financial, propaganda and military support).
Turkey, which was once the worst jailer of journalists, fell to No. 6 because president Recep Tayyip Erdogan effectively eradicated the mainstream media following a failed 2016 coup attempt.
Saudi Arabia, following the murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, silenced many journalists. The Kingdom also has stepped up the surveillance of reporters.
Autocrats also benefited as the global preoccupation with COVID-19 took the world’s focus off the crackdown of journalists in repressive nations.
The Committee noted that Hong Kong made its list due to the implementation of China’s draconian 2020 National Security Law that was put into place following the pro-democracy demonstrations.
Eight Hong Kong media figures including Jimmy Lai, founder of Apple Daily and Next Digital were thrown into prison.
The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong ran a full-page ad in the New York Times on Dec. 10 calling for the release of Lai.
It praised Lai for giving voice to the powerless; talking about ideas with leaders, media and students; advocating for the rule of law, free markets and democracy; and for risking his life to protect the human rights of millions of others in a great global city.
The 74-year-old Lai has been sentenced to 13 months in prison for attending a 2020 vigil to mark the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing.
Joel Simon, executive director of the CPJ, is unsettled about the number of arrests during demonstrations because protests are “a critical form of political expression in the US and around the world.”
How can the US preach the need for freedom of speech to other countries while its police forces are rounding up journalists covering their rights of expression?
Employees say their top demand of CEOs is pay attention to the health concerns of staffers as companies emerge from COVID-19.
That's a key finding of a survey conducted by FTI Consulting’s strategic communications unit showing that 34 percent of employees want CEOs to put the physical and mental health of staffers on top of their priority list as back-to-the-office plans get rolled out in the coming year.
That stands in sharp contrast to the opinion of investors. Only 14 percent of the institutional investors surveyed by FTI believe the health status of employees should be a CEO priority.
Investors rank financial performance (22 percent) as their No. 1 priority for CEOs. Only 13 percent of employees put financials on top.
Investors are more bullish than employees on CEOs engaging in politics by a 65 percent to 38 percent margin.
Younger staffers are more inclined to support an activist chief executive.
Fifty-two percent of Millennials (aged 25-40) and 51 percent of Gen Zers (18-24) want CEOs to take a stand on political issues.
That compares to a third of Gen Xers (41-56) and a mere 16 percent of Baby Boomers.