The World News You Missed This Week – May 1st, 2017

Press Freedom in The United States Declines, According to The Global Press Freedom Index

In the era of #FakeNews, the U.S. has dropped in press freedom ranking

The United States has fallen in the ranking of press freedom around the world, according to the latest survey released by Reporters Without Borders. The U.S. dropped two spots to number 43 in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

On Friday, Reporters Sans Frontiers (Reporters Without Borders) released its annual Global Press Freedom Index.

This year, the United States fell to 43rd place, two spots lower than last year. According to an explanation by RSF, President Donald Trump’s recent attacks on the media, including his administration’s withholding of access to journalists and members of the White House Press Corps, were partly to blame for the decline.

Several other countries also declined in the rankings, including the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada. Even more dramatic declines were observed in Hungary, Poland and Turkey. Meanwhile, Norway narrowly edged out Finland for the title of first place while North Korea took last place behind Eritrea.

RSF also noted that global press freedom overall has declined sharply in recent years according to the organization’s global indicator, which hit an all-time high in 2017.

France’s Presidential Election: Emmanuel Macron, Marine le Pen to Face Each Other in May Runoff

French presidential election: first round results in charts and maps

Voters in France went to the polls on Sunday in the first round of the presidential election. The top two candidates, independent Emmanuel Macron and far-right Marine Le Pen, go into a run-off in a fortnight.

Last week, French voters went to the polls in the first round of the country’s 2017 Presidential election. Emmanuel Macron, a former minister in outgoing President François Hollande’s government, and Marine le Pen of the far-right National Front, finished in the top two spots with 24 and 21 percent of the vote, respectively.

This election in particular was highly unusual in that neither candidate who made it to the runoff came from an established party.

Macron, who was a member of the Socialist party between 2006 and 2009, ran under the newly formed En Marche party and promised to be a candidate of “neither left nor right.” He campaigned on a strongly pro-EU platform and stressed the need to cut public spending and reform France’s labor laws while maintaining key elements of the country’s social safety net.

Le Pen is the leader of the populist, far-right and anti-immigration National Front. Though Le Pen had been in politics for over a decade, this is the first time a National Front candidate has made it to the runoff since Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie, did so in 2002. In that election, the elder Le Pen was defeated by incumbent President Jacques Chirac, 82 to 18.

While eleven candidates campaigned for the presidency, most observers dubbed the contest a four-way race between Macron, Le Pen, François Fillon of the center-right Republican party, and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who collectively captured roughly 85 percent of the vote.

Benoît Hamon, the nominee from the governing Socialist Party came in a distant fifth place with six percent of the vote, the party’s worst showing since the founding of the 5th Republic in 1958.

Currently, Macron is leading le Pen by more than 20 points in most opinion polls and has been endorsed by most members of the country’s political establishment, including rival candidates Fillon and Hamon.

The runoff will be held on Sunday, May 7.

Wikipedia Banned in Turkey

Turkey just banned Wikipedia, labeling it a ‘national security threat’

If you try to open Wikipedia in Turkey right now, you’ll turn up a swirling loading icon, then a message that the server timed out. Turkey has blocked Wikipedia. If you’re inside the country, you can only access the online encyclopedia through a virtual private network connection to a system outside the country.

On Saturday, Turkish authorities blocked access to Wikipedia, claiming that the site was hosting content “supporting terror.” Though access is blocked from inside the country, it is still possible to visit the site through a virtual private network (VPN).

According to a statement by the country’s Ministry of Transport, Maritime Affairs, and Communications, Wikipedia “has started acting as part of the circles who carry out a smear campaign against Turkey in the international arena, rather than being cooperative in fight against terror.”

Officials also told the Washington Post that the ban is indefinite and will not end until Wikipedia opens an office in Turkey and pays taxes.

This is not the first time Turkey has blocked websites or censored information on the Internet. Facebook and Twitter have been banned in the country periodically, especially after terrorist attacks.

The Wikipedia ban comes amid widespread crackdowns on civil society after the country was rocked by dozens of terrorist attacks over the past year, along with an attempted coup against incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Since last July, hundreds of thousands of civil servants have been fired from their jobs and thousands of academics, journalists, and bloggers have been arrested and imprisoned.

India Bans Social Media in Kashmir Amid Unrest

News from The Associated Press

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Authorities in Indian-controlled Kashmir have banned 22 social media sites in an effort to calm tensions in the disputed region after videos depicting the alleged abuse of Kashmiris by Indian forces fueled protests. But the sites remained online Thursday as the local telecom company struggled to block them.

On Friday, Indian authorities in Kashmir announced a one-month ban on at least 22 social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter, in an attempt to quell protests that have rocked the region in recent weeks.

However, the telecom companies who were ordered to comply with the ban have struggled to take many of the sites offline without shutting down Internet access for the whole region. 3G and 4G cell services were also suspended, however the weaker 2G service is still available for making calls.

The government’s actions drew widespread condemnation from civil rights and press freedom advocacy groups within the country, including the Center for Internet and Society.

Authorities justified the ban as an attempt to stop the “misuse of social networking sites and instant messaging services [which are] likely to be detrimental to the interests of peace and tranquility in the state,” according to a statement obtained by the Associated Press. It seems the ban is a response to videos being uploaded to social media that show alleged abuse by Indian soldiers and security forces. Such abuses have sparked protests in Kashmir for years, and were likely the cause of the most recent outbreak of demonstrations.

Protests in Venezuela Enter Third Straight Week as Death Toll Mounts

Death toll reaches 26 as Venezuela protests continue

Two men have become the latest to die in political violence in Venezuela, bring the number of fatalities in recent weeks up to 26. The state prosecutor’s office in the western state of Lara said Orlando Medina, 23, was gunned down in a protest against the rule of President Nicolas Maduro.

Anti-government protests in Venezuela continue to cripple the country as demonstrations enter their third consecutive week. So far, at least 26 people have been killed in the violence, most of whom were gunned down by government security forces. Thousands more have been arrested.

Demonstrators are protesting President Nicholas Maduro’s socialist government, which has become increasingly anti-democratic since opposition parties took control of parliament 18 months ago. Since then, Maduro began enacting legislation by decree, and last month, made the unprecedented move of asking the Supreme Court, which is widely believed to be stacked by allies of the regime, to dissolve parliament.

Venezuela is also facing a massive economic crisis, with major shortages of food, medicine and commodities. The crisis, which has gone on for years and turned Venezuela into one of the poorest countries in Latin America, is widely believed to be the root of such discontent.  

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