Turkey remains world’s worst offender against press freedom

A group of journalists hold a banner reading "Justice"during a demonstration at the courthouse in Istanbul on March 15, 2018. (File/AFP)
Updated 13 December 2018

Turkey remains world’s worst offender against press freedom

  • A report by the Committee to Protect Journalists said that a near-record number of journalists around the world are behind bars for their work
  • The CPJ said there are dozens of reporters missing or kidnapped in the Middle East and North Africa

Turkey remains the world’s worst offender against press freedom, the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Thursday, with at least 68 journalists imprisoned for anti-state charges.

Turkey has previously said its crackdown is justified because of an attempted coup to overthrow the government in 2016.

The report said that a near-record number of journalists around the world are behind bars for their work, including two Reuters reporters whose imprisonment in Myanmar has drawn international criticism.

There were 251 journalists jailed for doing their jobs as of Dec. 1, the CPJ said in an annual study. For the third consecutive year, more than half are in Turkey, China and Egypt, where authorities have accused reporters of anti-governmental activities.

“It looks like a trend now,” the report’s author, Elana Beiser, said in an interview. “It looks like the new normal.”

The number of journalists imprisoned on charges of “false news” rose to 28, up from 21 last year and nine in 2016, according to the CPJ, a U.S.-based nonprofit that promotes press freedom.

The report criticized U.S. President Donald Trump for frequently characterizing negative media coverage as “fake news,” a phrase that is also used by leaders against their critics in countries like the Philippines and Turkey.

In Egypt, at least 25 journalists are in prison. Authorities say this is to limit dissent are directed at militants trying to undermine the state.

Meanwhile, when asked about journalists being jailed, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said: “Legal measures are not taken because of these suspects’ or criminals’ professions. This is unrelated.”

The overall number of jailed journalists is down eight percent from last year’s record high of 272, the CPJ said.

The total does not take into account journalists who have disappeared or are being held by non-state actors. The CPJ said there are dozens of reporters missing or kidnapped in the Middle East and North Africa, including several held by Houthis in Yemen.

(With Reuters)


Tech giants such as Google, Facebook seek to defer Indian digital tax

Updated 31 March 2020

Tech giants such as Google, Facebook seek to defer Indian digital tax

  • India announced last week that, from Apr. 1, all foreign billings for digital services provided in the country would attract a 2% tax
  • Executives from top technology companies got together on conference calls organized by US-India business lobby groups last week

NEW DELHI, March 31 : Big US tech firms such as Google and Facebook plan to seek deferment of a new Indian digital tax, which has caught them off-guard as businesses battle the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, three industry sources told Reuters.
India announced last week that, from Apr. 1, all foreign billings for digital services provided in the country would attract a 2% tax. Foreign billings are where companies take payment abroad for a service provided to customers in India.
The tax would also apply to e-commerce transactions on websites such as Amazon.com, as well as advertising revenue earned from companies overseas if it eventually “targets a customer” in India, the government said.
Executives from top technology companies got together on conference calls organized by US-India business lobby groups last week, and decided to seek a deferment of at least six months, said the three people aware of the talks. They asked not to be named as the discussions were private.
Google is particularly concerned that it will not be able to swiftly identify countries where advertising arrangements were in place to target Indian users, increasing technological and compliance requirements, according to one of the sources.
“Everyone is grappling. In the current downturn, the focus is on protecting the business hit due to coronavirus,” said the source who works for a global technology company and described the tax as a “big, big headache.”
Google and Amazon declined to comment, while Facebook did not respond to Reuters queries. India’s finance ministry also did not respond.
India-US tensions
The extent of possible compliance disruptions caused by the tax, a so-called equalization levy, was not immediately clear, nor was how much India could garner from the tax.
Indruj Rai, a partner at law firm Khaitan & Co, said the government’s move appeared aimed at taxing foreign companies which had a significant local client base but were billing them through their offshore, or foreign, units.
“The timing of the introduction of the levy appears to be an attempt to increase revenue collections during the pandemic,” Rai added.
The new tax was inserted in the 2020-21 budget amendments passed last week, giving companies only a few days to prepare. The levy was not part of budget proposals first presented on Feb. 1.
India and the United States remain at loggerheads over a wide array of tariffs. The digital tax has alarmed the US government, which has reviewed it, but Washington is not immediately likely to raise concerns with New Delhi given priorities over the coronavirus, said a fourth source aware of the US government’s thinking.
The US Embassy in New Delhi did not respond to a request for comment.