World Policy Newsletter, Week of December 15th

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If there’s a theme of this newsletter, it’s the global crackdown on free speech, which is taking different forms in countries around the world. In Venezuela, strongman Nicolás Maduro is using his presidential perch to stifle the country’s democratic institutions at an alarming pace, writes Tamara Taracuik Broner. For the past several years, the government has targeted opposition mayors, and in recent months dissenting Venezuelans have been sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. Unless the international community steps in, Broner writes, the situation is unlikely to improve.

As a certain U.S. president continues to decry the so-called spread of “fake news” in credible media outlets, our friends at Coda Story look at how fake news has gotten a very real assist in the Czech Republic. Before he was elected this year as an MP for a far-right party, Michael Colborne writes, Radek Koten worked as an IT specialist and spent his time spreading pro-Kremlin conspiracy theories on social media. Now, as head of the Czech parliament’s security committee, he’s calling the shots on what counts—or doesn’t—as “disinformation.”

This week on World Policy On Air, writer and English PEN President Maureen Freely discusses the attacks on the free press in Turkey.

Nearly 300,000 people were forcibly sterilized in the mid-90s in Peru under the administration of Alberto Fujimori. For Talking Policy, filmmaker Sandra Tabares-Duque discusses the Quipu Project, a transmedia effort to bring this horrific period out into the open by recording the testimonies of survivors through a phone line connected to a website. The project is named after “knotted cords that were used by the Incas and ancient Andean civilizations to convey complex messages.”

Finally, here’s what the staff is excited about this week:

Laurel Jarombek, Managing Editor: “The Fish Can Sing by Halldór Laxness, a 1957 novel about a boy who grows up in a family of fishermen but wants to be a singer. I visited Iceland this fall, but had never read anything by an Icelandic fiction writer, so I’m excited to start with this one by a Nobel Prize-winning author.”

Jonathan Cristol, Fellow: “I’m most excited about the return of Black Mirror on Dec. 29. If there is one television program that presents a plausible, horrifying, and plausibly horrifying vision of where we are headed as a society, it is Black Mirror. You can catch up on Netflix, but I recommend either watching the seasons in reverse order or beginning with the episode ‘White Bear.’”

Kate Maloff, Executive Director: “I’m pleasantly shocked that Doug Jones won the Alabama election, though at the same time I’m humiliated that I now have to explain to my friends and family around the world that had Jones not been running against a pedophile, there wouldn’t have been any contest. That got me thinking about how the U.S. has never reconciled or confronted many of our historical wrongs. I also heard that you can now fry food using air, which has me concerned about obesity and how America is built on debt-fueled consumerism.”

Happy holidays!

-Jessica Loudis, editor of World Policy Journal



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[Photo courtesy of María Alejandra Mora]

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