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Crackdowns on Press in China, Turkey, Iran Send Chilling Message

Over the past week, the governments of Iran, Turkey, and China have cracked down on the press and freedom of information.

The events send a chilling message to journalists everywhere who already face considerable risks in parts of the world.

Read more: Remember the Journalists Who Risk Their Lives for Justice

In Iran, the government supposedly destroyed 100,000 satellite dishes and receivers because they "deviate the society's morality and culture," according to General Mohammad Reza Naghdi, head of Iran's Basij militia.

Most of these satellite channels not only weaken the foundation of families but also cause disruptions in children's education and children who are under the influence of satellite have improper behaviour," he continued according to Basij News.

More than 70% of the population owns a satellite dish and Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has called the ban totally unnecessary.

But there is tension in Iran between hardline, conservative religious leaders and an increasingly secular public that gets aired in public displays like this.  

This latest demonstration seems to be an attempt to suppress people that want change.  After all, more than 63% of the country has access to the Internet, a channel with far more information than satellite TV.

Read more: Iran’s Nuclear Deal Deals a Blow to Poverty

In Turkey, the President Recep Erdoğan’s government expanded its massive purge of civil society, the militia, and academia by detaining 42 journalists.

Following a failed coup, the president initiated a state of emergency that essentially gives him absolute power. Many critics believe he is exploiting the crisis of a coup to achieve long-held dreams of total control over the country.

So far, more than 60,000 alleged conspirators have been detained.

Under Erdoğan’s rule, the government has silenced large parts of the independent press. It also controls many key media organizations that shape public opinion.

China is another country that censors the press and tries to shape public opinion through state media organizations.

The government took another step toward sanitizing the press on Monday when it called on several Internet portals to stop original news reporting.

In the past few years, many ambitious journalists have sought to bring a broader understanding of the country to the public and have consistently clashed with boundaries even as they expanded what was possible.

Now, the government has tightened those boundaries once more. The New York Times reports that the move could is an attempt to shore up support leading up to an important communist party meeting next year by limiting how many controversial stories are released.

The Chinese public, however, is adept at evading the censors and locating blocked information.

Removing key sources from producing news in the first place, however, is a completely different and much harder to deal with problem.

Taken together, these events are part of a global trend to stifle the spread of information and investigative journalism, which has the power to expose and end corruption and abuses of power.  

The assault on the press parallels the assault on environmental activists who have been killed in record numbers in the past few years.

Read more: 2015 Was the Deadliest Year for Environmentalists Ever

These trends represent a fundamental threat to achieving a fair, open, and sustainable world and have to be challenged in the months and years ahead.