Upward Spiral: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green | The Cornell Daily Sun
Put in the time. You sound just like him. She walked to the daybed on the other side of the large master bedroom. They needed to talk. The alarm on her cellphone rang, causing her to jump up quickly from the toilet. She grabbed the phone lying not quite within reaching distance on the far end of the sink. After the blowout with her husband last night, she needed him to stay asleep for a while. She purposely set her alarm before dawn to have quiet time alone this morning.
The vanity lights above the sink illuminated the dark circles under her eyes. She examined her not-quite-fifty-years-old eyes in the mirror. April felt exhausted and slightly depressed. She hoped this rough patch of her marriage would end soon. Frank was picking fights lately for little or no reason. As she approached the spiral staircase that led to the first floor, her mind wandered to the past.
Help Them on Their Way Home
The spiral staircase was the first thing about the house both April and Frank would mention when describing their home. The stairs are as beautiful as the day Frank and I bought the house, she thought. In those early years, April would pretend she was royalty walking down her palace stairs with her fingers lightly sliding down the banisters on both sides.
In her pajamas and slippers, April slowly descended the staircase to the floor below. Before she cleared the last few steps, headlights of a vehicle approaching the circular driveway illuminated the dark foyer at the bottom of the stairs. She walked to the door and looked out the peephole and saw a white van parked in the driveway.
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She turned on the foyer lights. The vans were unmarked, and the drivers handled the overflow of deliveries for one of the large online retailers. She opened the front door and looked through the storm door window to see a figure walking toward the door. As the figure got closer, she saw it was a woman with a curly brown wig that sat unevenly on her head.
She wore an all-black uniform, sunglasses, and gloves which immediately struck April as strange on this late Summer morning. April unlocked the storm door and held it open. Do you have a delivery? I can sign. I just need to see Frank. All at once, the woman pushed April and ran into the house. April was almost knocked down on the floor but caught her balance.
Get out of my house! Get down here! Journalists in El Salvador received death threats in after they uncovered stories of police abuse and extrajudicial killings. A Malian journalist who was outspoken about rampant political corruption was shot in the chest in Also that year, a Tanzanian journalist investigating the murders of local officials disappeared, and his fate remains a mystery.
Trends in press freedom differ by region. Since , there has been no net change in the average press freedom score for the Americas or Asia-Pacific, and sub-Saharan Africa has seen a slight increase of 3 percent. But the average scores in the two least free regions of the world, Eurasia and the Middle East and North Africa MENA , declined by 9 percent and 11 percent, respectively, while press freedom in Europe—where four out of every five countries are Free—dropped by 8 percent.
In Eurasia and MENA, the media in the past year have faced an intensification of traditional challenges. Examples include new legislative restrictions in Belarus, further arrests and convictions in Lebanon, and heightened insecurity and fatalities in war-torn Yemen.
The Spiral She Led Him Down & Putting Him Under
These developments illustrate the ways in which already difficult environments can grow steadily worse in the absence of meaningful international support for media independence and other fundamental rights. Even in the regions where average scores were more stable, press freedom has come under threat in individual countries. In Pakistan, security agents have allegedly warned journalists against coverage of taboo subjects, such as abuses by the military, or given reporters instructions on how to cover specific political issues.
The regime in China has worked to close off the last remaining avenues for accessing uncensored information by increasing pressure on private technology companies to police the content on their platforms more assiduously. The picture of global press freedom is not entirely bleak. The most encouraging examples of democratic progress over the past two years—Ethiopia, Malaysia, Armenia, Ecuador, and The Gambia—have nearly all featured parallel gains in their media environments. Among these five countries, only Armenia failed to register an improvement in its press freedom score in the same year as its initial political opening in Freedom in the World.
This correlation underscores once again the close relationship between media freedom and political change: Just as antidemocratic power grabs often involve attacks on independent media, a reformist leadership is defined in part by its willingness to accept criticism from a free press. And just as restrictions on media freedom frequently precede the erosion of other rights, the removal of such restrictions facilitates and catalyzes further democratic advancements. The improvements in these countries also point to the resilience of independent journalism, even after years of repression.
In Malaysia and Ecuador, the lifting of political pressure on the media allowed independent outlets to rebound from censorship and previously progovernment outlets to produce less obsequious coverage. In Ethiopia, outlets that had been operating from abroad were able to return to the country. In The Gambia, persecuted journalists returned from exile, and more locals have decided to enter the profession.
Media freedom can recover much more quickly after a period of authoritarian governance than some other elements of democracy, such as the rule of law. But it is also subject to rapid reversals. The Arab Spring provides a cautionary tale. Soon after the uprisings, Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya all recorded improvements in press freedom in Freedom in the World. All have since faced setbacks. Like democracy itself, press freedom is not an end state that remains secure once it is achieved—it must be nurtured and defended against the forces that oppose it.
A free and independent media sector that can keep the population informed and hold leaders to account is as crucial for a strong and sustainable democracy as free and fair elections. Without it, citizens cannot make informed decisions about how they are ruled, and abuse of power, which is all but inevitable in any society, cannot be exposed and corrected.
Journalists played a key role in the April ouster of authoritarian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algeria, not only by reporting on antigovernment protests but also by staging their own demonstrations when major news outlets failed to give due attention to the popular movement.
However, the frequent arrests of critical journalists that took place under Bouteflika have continued since his resignation, an indication that the unfolding leadership transition may be less revolutionary than many have hoped. Before Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir was removed from office, also in April, the population was accustomed to domestic news outlets that failed to provide unbiased and substantive information. Citizen journalists and exile-based outlets filled the gap, disseminating news and images largely via the internet.
As in Algeria, journalists staged their own protests. But journalists are skeptical of such declarations by the junta, and they have joined other protesters in pressing for a transfer of power to civilian leaders who can oversee a genuine democratic opening. But a handful of resilient journalists have continued to disseminate news through social media, the internet, and international partners.
One reporting group has developed technology to record video with low bandwidth on mobile devices and then automatically delete it after transfer to a secure server, reducing the risk of reprisals against journalists who are detained and searched. In order to address the information gap on the ground in Venezuela, some media outlets have also forged direct relationships with subsets of the population. Journalists enter communities that have had limited access to objective news under Maduro and report on local stories.
This fosters public trust and makes residents more receptive to other impartial news.
Despite these valiant efforts, however, the production of reliable, objective news that is accessible to Venezuelans remains a daunting challenge. Armenia has made far more progress in its democratic transition in the past year, with protests leading to fresh elections and a new, reformist government. As in Sudan, most television channels initially avoided covering the mass demonstrations.
But a small contingent of independent outlets, including Civilnet and Azatutyun, was able to provide steady in-depth reporting, including live streams and skillful use of social media.
The information flow helped the popular movement to gain momentum, increasing pressure on establishment forces and legitimizing the rising new leadership. These outlets also helped stem disinformation spread by the former regime. There is an obvious tension between journalists who are attempting to perform their proper democratic function and antidemocratic regimes that are determined to retain power.
The innovative and courageous work of independent reporters offers hope that even in the most desperate circumstances, those who are committed to distributing information in the public interest can find a way.
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Even in settings where Beijing has not yet attempted to undermine free expression and access to information, the groundwork is being laid for future interference, with insidious implications for democracy. She examines the legal, extralegal, and economic tactics deployed in Serbia and Hungary, both of which declined to Partly Free in Freedom in the World this year. The essay also describes the conditions that make media environments vulnerable to illiberal co-optation.
The essay analyzes how authoritarians and propagandists manipulate digital media to undermine democracy, and proposes a new partnership between tech companies and news media to support high-quality journalism. The following recommendations for policymakers in democratic nations will help ensure the sustainability of independent media worldwide:.
Ensure that their actions do not excuse or inspire violations of press freedom. Democratic nations have a particularly important role to play in maintaining media freedom. Take strong and immediate action against any violations of media freedom globally through press statements, phone calls, meetings, letters, and the imposition of targeted sanctions on perpetrators.
Stand up publicly for the value of a free press, and support civic education that will inform the next generation.
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