Macho global leaders are using same techniques to stifle freedom of speech in democracies says Index report
19 Dec 2019

“They like to think of themselves as strongmen but what, in fact, they are doing is channeling the worst kind of machismo,” writes Index on Censorship editor-in-chief Rachael Jolley.

In the winter issue published today Index reports on how macho leaders, from Trump and Johnson to Modi and Bolsonaro, protect their fragile egos by stifling dissent, debate and democracy.

Jolley continues: “They are extremely uncomfortable with public criticism. They would rather hold a Facebook ‘press conference’ where they are not pressed than one where reporters get to push them on details they would rather not address.”

All around the world, these so called “strong men” have stormed the polls and are coming to power. Many are being voted in democratically, but they don’t believe in freedom of speech, and are actively eroding it. “Right now these techniques are coming at us from all around the globe, as if one giant algorithm is showing them the way,” writes Jolley as part of a special report on this global trend.

In this issue news editor Miriam Grace Go of Filipino news publication Rappler writes about how the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, tries to show his strength by being as foul-mouthed as possible. If you’re a critical journalist – and especially a woman journalist – as she is, what can you expect?

Indian journalist Somak Goshal reports on how people are being labelled as “Pakistani terrorists” for not showing “patriotism”. And Stefano Pozzebon talks to journalists in Brazil who are right in the firing line of Jair Bolsonaro’s attacks on the media, and who are now hiring security guards.

Mark Frary reviews the tools that autocrats are using to crush dissent and Caroline Lees looks at smears that are used as a tactic to silence journalists and other critics. We also publish a poem from Hong Kong writer Tammy Lai-ming Ho, which addresses the current protests engulfing the city, plus two short stories written exclusively for the magazine by Kaya Genç and Jonathan Tel.

Editor’s Notes: Index on Censorship Magazine

For interviews contact: [email protected]

Since its establishment in 1972, Index on Censorship magazine has published some of the greatest names in literature including Samuel Beckett, Nadine Gordimer, Mario Vargas Llosa, Hilary Mantel and Kurt Vonnegut. It also has published some of the greatest campaigning writers of our age from Vaclav Havel to Amartya Sen and Ariel Dorfman plus journalism from Mexico, Argentina, South Africa, China, India, Turkey and more. Editor Rachael Jolley was named British Society of Editors’ editor of the year in the specialist publication category (2016) and the magazine has received numerous awards including the APEX Award for Excellence and the Hermann Kesten prize.

Digital editions are on sale at

Print copies of the magazine are also on sale at BFI, Serpentine Gallery and MagCulture (London), News from Nowhere (Liverpool), Home (Manchester) and Red Lion Books (Colchester).

Launch Event

Shake off the post New Year blues with drinks, snacks and debate at Index on Censorship’s winter magazine launch. Guest speakers include Xiaolu Guo, Dora Papp, Lindsey Hilsum and Rob Sears. The event will be hosted by Index editor-in-chief Rachael Jolley on Wednesday 15 January at Google’s London HQ. For media invitations please email: [email protected]

Index on Censorship announces shortlist for 2021 Freedom of Expression Awards

Imprisoned Egyptian human rights campaigner, Russian feminist performance artist, and persecuted Djiboutian journalists among the shortlisted candidates

Index on Censorship announces Ruth Smeeth as new chief executive 

Index on Censorship has today (Monday 15th June) announced the appointment of Ruth Smeeth as the organisation’s new chief executive.  Ruth Smeeth was the MP for Stoke-on-Trent-North from 2015 to 2019, and prior to that was deputy director at HOPE not hate. Ruth Smeeth, chief executive, Index on Censorship, said: “I’m excited to be joining […]

Index and JFJ launch global initiative to monitor attacks on the media during coronavirus

Index on Censorship and Justice for Journalists Foundation (JFJ) have announced a joint global initiative to track attacks and violations against the media, specific to the current coronavirus-related crisis

Comments are closed.