This week, the government of Iraq fined and suspended the news agency Reuters for three months. Why? Because Reuters reported that the numbers of COVID-19 cases were higher than official government reports.
"This move against a media outlet comes as a part of a global trend of governments which have harassed, detained or expelled journalists/media outlets for reporting on the outbreak of the virus," says Stratfor Global analyst, Thomas Abi Hanna. "Governments around the world have distorted (or simply mishandled) the number of cases and deaths caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, which has been a source of embarrassment to them. Other countries which have taken similar actions include Algeria, China, Egypt and Russia.”
In the United States, inconsistent messaging from the federal government has made it challenging for journalists to quickly and accurately report on the virus and its effects. Guidelines on social distancing have closed newsrooms along with businesses, and reporters - like a majority of American workers right now - are doing their jobs remotely, which further complicates their efforts to report, as detailed by the Columbia Journalism Review.
"As the global pandemic continues to spread and more people die as a result, governments are likely to take similar measures against those reporting on stories which are either embarrassing or adversarial to the government," says Abi Hanna. "Looking forward to after the COVID-19 outbreak ends, governments are likely to use the precedent set during this outbreak — which could include so-called 'fake news' laws — to take similar actions against journalists and media outlets, especially in countries with a more authoritarian bent."
As with other major disasters - natural and man-made - journalists are often the first to arrive on the front lines. Even in countries less authoritarian, journalists have increasingly come under fire just for doing their jobs. And yet, all of us, including Stratfor analysts, rely on journalists to tell those stories to help inform our work. That is why Stratfor, and our parent company RANE (Risk Assistance Network + Exchange) are proud to support the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation and its work to promote the safety of journalists reporting from dangerous areas around the world.
Stratfor makes our geopolitical intelligence services - Stratfor Worldview and Stratfor Threat Lens - available to the Foundation. Worldview brings global events into valuable perspective, empowering journalists to more confidently navigate their way through an increasingly complex international environment, while with Threat Lens, the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation and the reporters it supports can receive real-time situational updates to identify, anticipate, measure, and mitigate risks that emerging threats pose to journalists around the world.
"We are happy to assist the important work of the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation and the journalists it supports," says RANE’s CEO, Steve Roycroft. "Journalists provide critical information about global issues that the public relies on, and with Stratfor Worldview and Stratfor Threat Lens, the foundation can better prepare for and monitor situations to enhance journalist safety."
"We are excited by this new partnership with Stratfor that will allow us to provide more safety tools to the independent journalists we work with," says Diane Foley, founder and president of the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation. "With increasing threats to reporters working across the globe, we are grateful for companies like Stratfor who increase safety preparedness and protect those who bring us the news."
About Stratfor. The world’s leading geopolitical intelligence platform, part of the RANE company, brings global events into valuable perspective, empowering businesses, governments and individuals to more confidently navigate their way through an increasingly complex international environment. By leveraging a deep understanding of history, politics and geography, in conjunction with the company’s unique geopolitical methodology, Stratfor delivers informed perspectives on today’s events and develops a more accurate view of the future. Subscribe here.
About RANE (Risk Assistance Network + Exchange). RANE is a risk intelligence company that connects risk and security professionals with critical insights and expertise, enabling them to more efficiently address their most pressing challenges and drive better risk management outcomes.
About the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation. The James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, named for American independent journalist, James Foley, who was kidnapped and murdered in Syria by ISIS, was started in 2014 to advocate for the freedom of all Americans held hostage abroad and promote the safety of journalists worldwide.