Front Page Talking Points


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Elections, dissent and media rights are challenged in four countries


1.gifShow an example of American human rights or liberty.

2.gifSummarize a foreign story and tell why it's newsworthy.

3.gifShare a quote about voting, press freedom or another democratic principle.

It has been a dark spring for free elections, media rights, freedom of travel and other liberties in parts of the world. Separate developments in four distant countries all reflect the use of raw government power against dissent and the free flow of information. The most dramatic example came May 23 when authorities in Belarus, an East European nation where thousands of people have been arrested since August, used a fighter jet to intercept a passenger flight from Greece to Lithuania with a prominent dissident on board. After it was forced to land, a 26-year-old journalist was arrested. His social media channel exposed police brutality during anti-government demonstrations.

European leaders called the brazen move a "hijacking," an "act of terrorism" and grounds for further punishment of an already isolated regime. The 27-country European Union voted the next day to cut direct air connections to Western Europe from Belarus (pronounced Bella-ROOS). Also last week, generals running the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar (me-ANN-mar) detained an American journalist as he was trying to fly home to Michigan. It's part of a brutal crackdown that began after military leaders unseated the elected government in February. Authorities have detained more than 70 journalists, according to media watchdogs, and about 4,000 others in recent months, according to human rights advocates.

In Africa, military officers in the nation of Mali last week detained the president, prime minister and defense minister of an interim government just nine months after a military coup ousted the previous president. And in the South Pacific, on the island country of Samoa, the prime minister won't concede an election he lost narrowly to the nation’s first female leader. Judicial rulings back her status as the new prime minister, but the man she beat locked her out of parliament – forcing an outdoor swearing-in ceremony. The power struggle remains unresolved.

Here in the United States, democracy is on firmer ground – though challenged by baseless claims by Donald Trump that President Biden didn’t beat him legitimately last November. A new Gallup poll released last week shows that 53% of Republicans think Trump won. "The Big Lie about the election … was promoted initially by Trump himself," New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote last week, "but what's crucial is that almost no prominent Republican politicians have been willing to contradict his claims and many have rushed to back them up."

Samoan politician says: "Democracy is inseparable from human rights, which are inalienable by our laws, as well as by international covenants that we have sworn to uphold. Democracy must prevail, always." -- Laaulialemalietoa Polataivao Schmidt, deputy leader of party that won parliamentary majority.

White House says: Belarus' plane diversion "constitutes a brazen affront to international peace and security by the regime. We demand an immediate international, transparent and credible investigation of this incident." – Jen Psaki, presidential press secretary

Russian editor says: "What's happening is . . . about the criminalization of a free press in parts of the world where it is the most vital — and about the obligation of the international community to stand up to leaders who intimidate and silence journalists." -- Alexey Kovalev, investigations editor at an independent Moscow news outlet

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for, Copyright 2021

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