THE WORLD’S POPULATION is projected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, 9.7 billion by 2050, and exceed 11 billion in 2100, according to a new United Nations report.

The report, 2015 Revision of World Population Prospects, the 24th round of official UN population estimates and projections, says India is expected to surpass China as the most populous country in seven years.

Nigeria is also seen to overtake the United States to become the world’s third largest country around 35 years from now.

A UN press advisory noted that the 2015-2050 period, half of the world’s population growth is expected to be concentrated in nine countries: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, the United States, Indonesia, and Uganda.

Wu Hongbo, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, whose department produced the report said that understanding the demographic changes that are likely to unfold over the coming years “is key to the design and implementation of the new development agenda.”

The UN member-states, the advisory said, are currently in the process of crafting a successor agenda to the landmark Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which wrap up at the end of this year.

A new framework, focused on poverty eradication, social inclusion, and preserving the health of the planet, is set to be adopted at a special UN summit, in New York this September.

According to the report’s projections, “most of the projected increase in the world’s population can be attributed to a short list of high-fertility countries, mainly in Africa, or countries with already large populations.”

“At present, China and India remain the two largest countries in the world, each with more than 1 billion people, representing 19 and 18 per cent of the world’s population, respectively, but by 2022, the population of India is expected to surpass that of China, according to the report’s projection,” it added.

“Among the 10 largest countries in the world currently, one is in Africa (Nigeria), five are in Asia (Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, and Pakistan), two are in Latin America (Brazil and Mexico), one is in Northern America (US), and one is in
Europe (Russian Federation),” the UN said.

“Of these,Nigeria’s population, currently the seventh largest in the world, is growing the most rapidly,” said the report.

The report also projected that “by 2050, the populations of six countries are expected to exceed 300 million: China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the United States.”

“And with the highest rate of population growth, Africa is expected to account for more than half of the world’s population growth over the next 35 years,” it added.

During this period, the report said, “the populations of 28 African countries are projected to more than double, and by 2100, 10 African countries are projected to have increased by at least a factor of five: Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Somalia, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, and Zambia.”

“The concentration of population growth in the poorest countries presents its own set of challenges, making it more difficult to eradicate poverty and inequality, to combat hunger and malnutrition, and to expand educational enrolment and health systems, all of which are crucial to the success of the new sustainable development agenda,” said John Wilmoth, Director of the UN’s Population Division.

In contrast to the growth projections, the report noted “a significant ageing of the population in the next several decades” for most regions. These include Europe, where 34 per cent of the population is projected to be over 60 years old by 2050. In Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia, “the population will be transformed from having 11 per cent to 12 per cent of people over 60 years old today to more than 25 per cent by 2050.”

Too, the UN report said, “life expectancy at birth has increased significantly in the least developed countries in recent years.”

The six-year average gain in life expectancy among the poorest countries, from 56 years in 2000-2005 to 62 years in 2010-2015, is roughly double the increase recorded for the rest of the world, the report added.

“While significant differences in life expectancy across major areas and income groups are projected to continue, they are expected to diminish significantly by 2045-2050,” the UN said.

FIVE YEARS AGO as president-elect, Benigno S. Aquino III promised to endorse, support, and push the passage of the Freedom of Information Act.

Five years hence as President, he has spurned his promise.

For over two hours, he delivered his sixth and last SONA on Monday, consistent in one thing: As in the first five, Aquino skipped mention of the FOI Act that has been pending before Congress in the last 15 years.

But five years ago, in separate interviews with the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) and other media groups, President-elect Aquino had declared his love for FOI.

In fact, he said he wants the FOI passed because transparency was one of the cornerstones of his new government.

That love is lost, and with it, Aquino’s word honor on FOI, now that he is President.

The video above is a composite of interviews and news reports on Aquino’s love affair with FOI, in the giddy days after his apparent election victory.

The stories, culled from voice over reports from the PCIJ and GMA-7, were published in May and June 2010.

By Rowena F. Caronan

FIVE YEARS AGO, when President Benigno S. Aquino III delivered his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), he made specific policy promises on economic reforms and job creation – on top of his overall promise of change: “Daang Matuwid” and “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.”

Five years hence, Aquino’s SONA promises and those laid down in the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) for 2010-2016 are still a work in progress. In all of the targets he has sworn to achieve, he is falling behind the natural deadline of his presidency that comes on June 30, 2016.

The Aquino government has secured credit ratings upgrade for achieving record economic growth yet still, that growth has yet to turn inclusive and trigger jobs of sufficient quality and quantity for the Filipino poor.

Interviewed on the ABS-CBN News Channel, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan justified that no country or political administration has so far eliminated poverty and unemployment.

The promises he made

In his 2010 SONA, Aquino laid out his blueprint for job creation by boosting growth in the industry and streamlining business processes.

A year later, through his social contract, Aquino promised a government that prioritizes jobs that empowers Filipinos and provide them with opportunities to rise above poverty. He also said his government would create jobs at home so working abroad will be a choice rather than necessity. He promised to prioritize welfare and protection of those who choose overseas work.

More specifically, the Aquino administration’s PDP sought to reduce the number of poor Filipinos to 18 percent of the population, maintain an average economic growth of at least 7.5 percent annually, generate employment of one million per year, and reduce the unemployment rate to 6.5 percent by the end of his term in 2016.

What he has achieved so far

From 2011 to 2014, Aquino had boasted in his SONA credit ratings upgrades, and record runs of the stock market as evidence of a strong economy. This meant, he had explained, that the government could borrow funds for programs and projects at lower interest rates and more business would be attracted to invest in the country.

In his 2011 and 2012 SONAs, Aquino said his government had delivered on reducing the number of unemployed Filipinos. He said, “Is it not an apt time for us to dream of a day where any Filipino who wishes to work can find a job?”

In his 2013 SONA, Aquino reported additional jobs created in the BPO (business processing outsourcing) sector. He said: “Back in the year 2000, only 5,000 people were employed in this industry. Fast forward to 2011: 638,000 people are employed by BPOs, and the industry has contributed 11 billion dollars to our economy.”

In 2014, Aquino praised Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz for adopting better labor resolution practices that helped reduce the number of labor strikes to less than 10 during that year.

He said: “Consider this: According to the National Conciliation and Mediation Board, since 2010, the number of strikes per year has been limited to less than ten. This is the positive result of the Department of Labor and Employment’s Single entry Approach, or SEnA, through which filed labor cases go through a 30-day conciliation-mediation period. The good news: out of 115 notices of strike and lockout in 2013, only one pushed through. This is the lowest number of strikes in the history of DOLE.”

The Aquino Presidency: Promises vs. Results

1. Reduce the number of poor Filipinos to 18 percent by 2016 – In progress

The poverty incidence among Filipinos (25.8 percent) in the first quarter of 2014 is still far from the target of 18 percent by 2016. In fact, this estimate by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) shows an increase from the 24.6 percent in the same period last year.

PSA noted that the 2013 poverty estimate had been revised for consistency with the 2014 poverty estimates, which was based on the 2014 Annual Poverty Indicators Survey and did not include sample households from Batanes and Leyte.

2. Sustain economic growth of at least 7 percent for the five-year period – In progress

The annual growth rate of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) averaged 6.3 percent from 2010 to 2014. The only time that the government has met its target of at least 7 percent annual GDP growth rate was in 2013.

In the first quarter of 2015, growth of the domestic economy slowed down to 5.2 from 5.6 percent in the same period last year.

In a statement, Balisacan explained that the “slower-than-programmed pace of public spending, particularly the decline in public construction” slowed the growth of the economy. Balisacan, however, said that the economy is expected to grow faster in the remaining quarters.

3. Increase the annual average output of different sectors for the five-year period: agriculture, fishery and forestry (2.5 percent to 3.5 percent), industry (9.3 percent to 10.3 percent), services (7.2 percent to 8.1 percent) – In progress

But while the government managed to increase the share of industry to the economic growth, it failed to do the same for the services, and agriculture and fishery sectors, which represent the poorest sectors.

Annual Gross Value Added (GVA) in industry grew by 8 percent on average from 2011 to 2013. But the agriculture, fishery, and forestry sectors grew only by 2 percent on average from 2010 to 2014.

According to the 2014 Socioeconomic Report of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the agriculture and fishery sectors had to grow “by an average of 10.8 percent for the remaining period (2015-2016) to achieve the lower-end target.”

Meanwhile, the government met its target for the services sector when it hit a 7.41-percent increase in 2012. But the services sector grew only by 6.62 percent on average from 2011 to 2014. In the first quarter of 2015, it grew by 5.6 percent compared with the same period last year.

4. Create a resilient external sector by increasing the share of the export industry to 51.6 percent of the economic growth and the value of merchandise exports to US$109.4 billion by 2016 – In progress

On average, exports represent 29.6 percent of the Nominal Gross Domestic Product from 2011 to 2014. The lowest rates were recorded in 2013 and 2014 at 28 percent and 28.7 percent, respectively.

Moreover, sales receipts from merchandise exports had continued to grow below the target. In 2014, total merchandise exports were valued at $61.8 billion or more than $7 billion short of the downscaled target.

5. Generate employment of one million annually and reduce the unemployment rate as low as 6.8 percent by 2016
– In progress

As of April 2015, the unemployment rate currently stands at 6.4 percent or above the government’s target. In 2014, the annual unemployment rate was estimated at 6.8 percent.

However, the employment generation from 2011 to 2014 had fall short of the target. Employment expanded from 36 million in 2010 to 38.7 million in 2014, with an average increase of 654,000. The 1-million annual target was reached only in 2011; employment generation dropped to about 500,000 in the following years.

According to Ibon Foundation, “comparable official figures for April 2015 clearly show the quality of work deteriorating.”

“The number of contractual and other workers in insecure and poorly-paid work has been increasing in the last two years. As of April 2015, 15.5 million or 40 percent of employed Filipinos were in just part-time work with likely very low pay and scant benefits.” – PCIJ, July 27, 2015

HE DELIVERS today his sixth and last State of the National Address.

But President Benigno S. Aquino III and the citizens he calls his “Boss” might do well to go back to script and check his “Social Contract with the Filipino People.”

This, he said in his own words, would be the terms of reference or platform on which he would build his presidency.

Sixty-months hence, what is the verdict from the bosses? Will Aquino fail or pass, by his own promises? Are we facing a case of tinimbang ka at sapat sa sukat or tinimbang ka ngunit kulang?

In what seems like a preamble to his “Social Contract,” Aquino described a portrait of government and politics that he says he wants to stamp out. Is the picture gone or does it linger still?

Let us review what Aquino had promised to do as president.


A SOCIAL CONTRACT WITH THE FILIPINO PEOPLE:
PLATFORM OF GOVERNMENT

A NATIONAL LEADERSHIP IN NEED OF TRANSFORMATIONAL CHANGE

* Its legitimacy is under question;
* It persecutes those who expose the truth about its illegitimacy and corruption;
* It stays in power by corrupting individuals and institutions;
* It confuses the people with half-truths and outright lies;
* It rewards, rather than punishes, wrongdoing;
* It offers no lasting solutions for the many problems of the country;
* It weakens the democratic institutions that hold our leaders accountable.
* It hinders our local governments from delivering basic services;
* It has no vision of governance beyond political survival and self-enrichment.

A PEOPLE CRYING OUT FOR CHANGE
* Corruption robs our children of their protection, nutrition and education.
* Corruption destroys our families and communities.
* Corruption steals from our farmers and workers.
* Corruption deters businessmen from investing in our economy.
* This has eroded our spirit as individuals, as communities, as a people.
* We have lost trust in the democratic institutions we so courageously re-established after the dictatorship.
* Our proven capacity for collective outrage and righteous resistance has been weakened.
* We have ceased to depend on the patriotism and civic engagement that used to animate many of our efforts.
* We have become divided and alienated, focusing only on ourselves and on our individual pursuits.
* Our moral faculties as a people have been paralyzed.
* We have retreated into a dark world of self-absorption and cynicism. Our collective despair has reached its lowest point.

THEN FINALLY, THE GIFT OF LIGHT

Cory Aquino passed on to the next life. From our sadness, we awakened to a shaft of light cutting through the darkness. She left the Filipinos a legacy of selfless love for country and people.

Filipinos’ connection with each other was rekindled. In death, she enabled us to hope again for decent government. The millions who connected with Cory at her funeral represented something more than euphoria, sentiment or transient emotions. They represented the reverent memory of a good leader in the past and the firm hope of having a similarly good leader in the future.

A PEOPLE’S CAMPAIGN OF RENEWED HOPE…

* Anchored on Ninoy’s and Cory’s legacy of change through the ways of democracy
* Embraces the qualities of integrity, humility and trust-worthiness in public leadership
* Recognizes the absence of these qualities in government as a major cause of widespread poverty, misery and despair.

THE VISION FOR THE PHILIPPINES:

A COUNTRY WITH…

1. A re-awakened sense of right and wrong, through the living examples of our highest leaders;

2. An organized and widely-shared rapid expansion of our economy through a government dedicated to honing and mobilizing our people’s skills and energies as well as the responsible harnessing of our natural resources;

3. A collective belief that doing the right thing does not only make sense morally, but translates into economic value as well;

4. Public institutions rebuilt on the strong solidarity of our society and its communities.

OUR MISSION:

We will start to make these changes first in ourselves—by doing the right things, by giving value to excellence and integrity and rejecting mediocrity and dishonesty, and by giving priority to others over ourselves.

We will make these changes across many aspects of our national life.

A COMMITMENT TO TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP:

1. From a President who tolerates corruption to a President who is the nation’s first and most determined fighter of corruption.

2. From a government that merely conjures economic growth statistics that our people know to be unreal to a government that prioritizes jobs that empower the people and provide them with opportunities to rise above poverty.

3. From relegating education to just one of many concerns to making education the central strategy for investing in our people, reducing poverty and building national competitiveness.

4. From treating health as just another area for political patronage to recognizing the advancement and protection of public health, which includes responsible parenthood, as key measures of good governance.

5. From justice that money and connections can buy to a truly impartial system of institutions that deliver equal justice to rich or poor.

ECONOMY

6. From government policies influenced by well-connected private interests to a leadership that executes all the laws of the land with impartiality and decisiveness.

7. From treating the rural economy as just a source of problems to recognizing farms and rural enterprises as vital to achieving food security and more equitable economic growth, worthy of re-investment for sustained productivity.

8. From government anti-poverty programs that instill a dole-out mentality ® to well-considered programs that build capacity and create opportunity among the poor and the marginalized in the country.

9. From a government that dampens private initiative and enterprise to a government that creates conditions conducive to the growth and competitiveness of private businesses, big, medium and small.

10. From a government that treats its people as an export commodity and a means to earn foreign exchange, disregarding the social cost to Filipino families to a government that creates jobs at home, so that working abroad will be a choice rather than a necessity; and when its citizens do choose to become OFWs, their welfare and protection will still be the government’s priority.

GOVERNMENT SERVICE

11. From Presidential appointees chosen mainly out of political accommodation to discerning selection based on integrity, competence and performance in serving the public good.

12. From demoralized but dedicated civil servants, military and police personnel destined for failure and frustration due to inadequate operational support to professional, motivated and energized bureaucracies with adequate means to perform their public service missions.

GENDER EQUALITY

13. From a lack of concern for gender disparities and shortfalls, to the promotion of equal gender opportunity in all spheres of public policies and programs.

PEACE & ORDER

14. From a disjointed, short-sighted Mindanao policy that merely reacts to events and incidents to one that seeks a broadlysupported just peace and will redress decades of neglect of the Moro and other peoples of Mindanao.

ENVIRONMENT

15. From allowing environmental blight to spoil our cities, where both the rich and the poor bear with congestion and urban decay to planning alternative, inclusive urban developments where people of varying income levels are integrated in productive, healthy and safe communities.

16. From a government obsessed with exploiting the country for immediate gains to the detriment of its environment to a government that will encourage sustainable use of resources to benefit the present and future generations.

This platform is a commitment to change that Filipinos can depend on.
With trust in their leaders, everyone can work and build a greater future together.

“ANG IPINANGAKO ko talaga is, during the 16th Congress. Bitayin ninyo ako kung matapos ito at hindi pa nakakapasa.”

[What I have promised was, during the 16th Congress (it will pass). When it ends and this does no pass, you can hang me."]

Thus spoke Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.in March 2014, in response to reporters’ queries about when the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill will pass in the House of Representatives. That early, the FOI bill had already hurdled third and final reading in the Senate.

Belmonte, leader of the House, had practically offered his head to proclaim what was supposedly his firm commitment to get the FOI bill passed in the lower chamber.

Was he just lying or bragging or both?

Words are apparently cheap to Belmonte. His verbal affirmation has not been followed by affirmative action for the FOI bill in the last 14 months.

In the view of the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition of 160 civil society organizations pushing for the FOI bill’s passage, Belmonte has merely paid lip service to a reform legislation that has been pending in Congress over the last 14 years.

Belmonte’s House, the Coalition said, seems to be no different from that led in the 14th Congress by Speaker Prospero Nograles Jr., an ally of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

At the time, the FOI bill was in its final stage of ratification by the House but Nograles and Arroyo’s allies, feigning a lack of quorum, postponed plenary vote until the 14th Congress adjourned sine die.

The Right to Know Coalition, in a statement issued on the eve of the sixth and last state of the nation address of President Benigno S. Aquino III, called out Belmonte and his “chief enforcer,” Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, for their failure to lead the FOI to passage.

The 16th Congress opens its third and last regular session tomorrow, July 27. It will adjourn sine die before the May 2016 elections.

A number of factors bode ill for the FOI bill. It seems headed, once again, to a tragic end in the 16th Congress.

These include the long recess intervals (i.e. Christmas break, Holy Week break); the frequent lack of a quorum because of absentee lawmakers; the election campaign that will see many politicians running for re-election; a long list of similarly urgent legislation (i.e. 2016 national budget, Bangsamoro Basic Law); and tepid support from Aquino, Belmonte, and Gonzales.

Belmonte, who was also Speaker of the 15th Congress (2010-13) when the Aquino-led Liberal Party Coalition gained control of the House, has hardly done anything to accelerate the House’s work on the FOI bill in the last six years.

Aquino, meanwhile, has largely been ambivalent and inchoate about his true position on the FOI bill, even as he had promised as a candidate for President in 2010 that he will support its passage. –PCIJ, July 2015

The statement of the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition follows:

Speaker’s support for FOI mere lip service

AT AROUND the time that the Senate approved the FOI bill on Third Reading in March 2014, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. boldly proclaimed: “Ang ipinangako ko talaga is during the 16th Congress. Bitayin ninyo ako kung matapos ito at hindi pa nakakapasa.”

Yet on the ground, the Speaker has not lifted a finger to give FOI a positive push. The bill has advanced at the committee level through the efforts of the committee chair, House champions and FOI advocates, at times even with counter-signals from the House leadership.

One clear evidence of the Speaker’s lack of actual commitment to advancing the FOI bill was his failure to put the FOI on the agenda, even for just its sponsorship in plenary, before Congress went to recess last June. This, despite the Committee chair and authors expressing readiness for the bill’s sponsorship and defense, and a letter of appeal from advocates.

The Speaker, under the rules, is the political and administrative head of the House of Representatives. He is responsible for the overall management of the proceedings of the House. He is primarily responsible for preparing the legislative agenda for every regular session, with the view of ensuring the full deliberation and swift approval especially of priority measures.

With the Speaker only paying lip service to FOI, the FOI Tracker rating goes down to 25. It will just be a matter of time for his chief enforcer, Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, to drive the final nail in the coffin of the FOI bill in the 16th Congress.

When all excuses are said and done, we see the House of Belmonte no different from the House of Prospero Nograles Jr. on FOI.”

Related links:

2015 will be a reckoning of promises on FOI

BT: Freedom of Information bill, nakabinbin pa rin sa Kongreso

THE IGLESIA NI CRISTO is a church at the crossroads. It has been so for many years now, albeit in a benign and quiet way.

This week though, a rupture in the INC hierarchy broke out in the open. Two members of the family of the INC’s founding patriarch came out on Youtube seeking rescue, saying their lives are in danger.

But more than just being a home-grown church, the INC is a shrewd political and business operator, too.

In 2002, the PCIJ ran a two-part report on the INC to document how it parlays the votes of its members for political and financial concessions to the church.

INC has done so over a series of presidential elections and political administrations from the time of the late strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos.

Read back the PCIJ report on the INC:

Iglesia ni Cristo: Church at the Crossroads
Iglesia ni Cristo: A Most Powerful Union

In 1998, the INC threw the support of its members, voting as a bloc, for Joseph Ejercito Estrada. Nudged out of the presidency in 2001, INC numbers swelled the ranks of those who mounted what is now called the EDSA 3 people power revolt, to demand Estrada’s return to power.

In 2004, however, INC endorsed Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for president.

In 2010, INC gave its votes and blessings to Benigno S. Aquino III, Arroyo’s arch critic.

This early, those who profer and offer themselves as supposedly the best choice for president have apparently started courting the INC’s votes for the May 2016 elections.

The Iglesia doctrine is based on the Bible and the “prophetic interpretations” of church founder Felix Y. Manalo, who left both the Catholic and the Protestant churches before founding the INC in 1914.

Manalo’s son Eraño is now the powerful executive minister of the church, while grandson Eduardo is deputy executive minister. They and 11 other senior ministers compose the “Central Administration,” which issue edicts that church members are compelled to follow.

Pasugo, the church’s official publication, asserts the church’s fundamental article of faith: that INC members constitute “the elect of God” and that God listens to them alone. To them, there is no salvation outside the Iglesia.

As Fernando Elesterio wrote in a dissertation submitted to De la Salle University: “It is this exclusivist attitude, generated naturally by the teachings of the ministers, that bestows on the members a sense of security and even of pride in their organization.”

“It does not matter that they are few, compared to those in the Catholic Church, or if they are viewed as unlettered; after all, they will go to heaven while the rest of mankind will go to hell.”

The church’s Internal Constitution lays down strict rules of behavior for its members. Drunkenness, adultery, and disobedience of church teachings are punishable by expulsion. Church members are also not allowed to join unions, making them ideal recruits for certain business establishments. “The church itself is a union, a most powerful union,” said a senior INC member.

The INC was founded on the eve of the World War I with only four ministers and 12 disciples. By 1936, it had grown to 300 ministers and evangelists with 500 churches and 350 chapels on Luzon island, according to the Encyclopedia of the Philippines.

Julita Reyes Sta. Romana, in her seminal study of the INC, said that by the 1950s, the church was recruiting from 10,000 to 15,000 converts a year. The 1990 Census of Population and Housing places the number of Iglesia members at 1.4 million, three times more than its membership in 1970.

By 2002, the INC has members among overseas Filipinos as well and says it has churches in 66 countries, including 39 in the United States, 23 in Asia, 15 in Europe, 11 in Australia and Oceania, and eight in Africa.

But it is not numbers alone that make the INC such an influential church today. The Iglesia commands strict obedience from its members. It votes as a bloc, and its leaders are wooed by politicians eager for support.

As explained in the May-June 1986 issue of the INC’s official publication, Pasugo: “The Church of Christ observes unity even in electing public officials (Philippians 2:2:3; I Corinthians 1:10). This is not to interfere with politics, but in obedience to God’s commandment. This unity is never betrayed by a true member of the church of Christ, even if some would be displeased.”

By 2002, INC claims to have 2 million members of voting age, although pollster Felipe Miranda believes that the actual figure is closer to 1 to 1.5 million.

At the national level, this bloc is a strategic swing vote, especially in multiparty electoral contests for the Senate. It is a swing vote for the presidential race as well, but only if there are multiple candidates. At the local level, especially in Luzon, the Iglesia command vote could determine the fate of a candidate.

For sure, the Roman Catholic Church itself has exerted its influence on government as well. The INC’s actions in fact mirror what the Catholics have done. It can even be said that the INC’s political activism is a reaction to the Catholic Church hierarchy’s active political involvement, then as now. - PCIJ, July 2015

TINKER, TAILOR, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggar-man, thief.

That is an ancient rhyme.

President, prime minister, statesman, strongman, leader, dealer, tyrant, thug?

That could well be a rhyme for our time.

In their own words, see how some heads of state and government speak about, talk to, or pipe down the press, according to the latest report of Reporters Without Borders.

* Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha of Thailand, asked at a news conference on 25 March 2015 what the government would do to journalists who do not stick to the official line, said: “We’ll probably just execute them.”

On 5 March 2015, celebrated as “Reporters Day” in Thailand, he said journalists should “play a major role in supporting the government’s affairs, practically creating the understanding of government’s policies to the public, and reduce the conflicts in the society.”

* Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung of Vietnam has tagged journalists as malevolent enemies and dismissed revelations about communist party corruption as “despicable stratagems by hostile forces.” Dung has threatened outspoken bloggers with “severe punishments,” and sent at least 27 citizen-journalists and bloggers to jail. In 2012, the Vietnamese authorities prosecuted 48 bloggers and human rights defenders, sentencing them to a total of 166 years in prison and 63 years of probation.

* President Xi Jinping of China, at a joint news conference with US President Barack Obama in November 2014, was asked by a New York times reporter if Beijing was going to lift its restrictions on foreign journalists working in China. The New York Times had run in 2012 a report on the wealth of then Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s family. Xi replied: “In Chinese, we have a saying: ‘The party which has created the problem should be the one to help resolve it.’ So perhaps we should look into the problem to see where the cause lies.”

The New York Times has not been able to appoint new China correspondents because the government systematically refuses to give them visas.

* President Thein Sein of Burma has waned media during a radio address in July 2014, his words were not taken lightly. “If media freedom threatens national security instead of helping the nation, I want to warn all that we will take effective action under existing laws.” Seven journalists have been jailed in Burma since the start of 2014. Usurping the press council’s role, the authorities have taken it upon themselves to act as the guarantors of journalistic ethics and to severely punish media outlets deemed guilty of professional misconduct

* Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia often uses the newly-reinforced Sedition Act to order prosecutions of journalists, bloggers and other critics including the cartoonist Zunar. Najib does not hesitate to directly and publicly threaten media outlets with legal action, saying he is ready to listen to “constructive criticism” from journalists, but when they cover abusive government practices, he orders police raids designed to censor and deter media from continuing to cover Malaysian politics freely.

.President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela rarely misses an opportunity to accuse foreign news media such as CNN en Español and the Miami Herald of waging an “international campaign” against Venezuela. In September 2014, he referred to a plan to “poison and dump their poison on Venezuela and elsewhere in the world,” using virulent language to accuse the media of being biased and pursuing a hidden agenda.

* President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, in his weekly TV broadcasts known as “Enlaces Ciudadanos” (Citizen Liaisons). attacked the editor of the Crudo Ecuador website, threatening to “respond with the same weapons/” In reaction to a TV presenter’s comments on plans to eliminate term limits for elected politicians, he accused journalists of using “the opposition’s dishonest discourse to demonize what is perfectly legitimate, democratic and transparent.”

* President Juan Orlando Hernández celebrated 25 May 2015 as the Day of the Journalist but in response to allegations of his ruling National Party’s involvement in embezzling social security funds lashed out at “pseudo-journalists [who] dissemble, distort and invent.”

* President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an of Turkey has called journalists who criticize him as “ignorant”, “agents of subversion”, “foreign spies” or even some kind of “terrorist.”

* President Ramzan Kadyrov of Chechnya, who mixes private and public posts on Instagram, says Muscovite and foreign journalists systematically distort the truth. His nefarious reputation, the summary methods employed by his militiamen, and the tragic fate suffered by many of his opponents lend a great deal of weight to his words.

Journalists who dare to highlight structural problems or criticize the government directly receive immediate warnings that can quickly turn into direct threats or intimidation of family members, RWB said. “The Turkmen, Uzbek and Kazakh leaders have suppressed pluralism so effectively that virtually no critical journalists are left.”

* President Milorad Dodik of the Republika Srpska, the Serbian part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, on 14 March 2014, in response to a question from Gordana Katana of the independent daily Oslobodenje during a news conference about a relative of his who had been given a prison sentence and was on the run. His response: “When I look at you, I understand why you are always negative. Nothing positive can come from you, anyway (…) The fact that you raise these subjects is not surprising. You come from a newspaper of a certain kind and, obviously, from an ethnic background of that certain too. You do it on purpose.” Dodik subsequently ordered all government departments to cancel their Oslobodenje subscriptions.

When a woman journalist with the TV programme 60 Minutes asked him a question, he replied: “You work for 60 Minutes? It’s a really lousy programme, it’s complete crap (…) I see that you at least are presentable. But you’re not pretty.”

* Hungary’s deputy prime minister last year described investigative journalists as “traitors” and said they were working for a “foreign power.”

* In France, the leaders of the far-right National Front often insult and intimidate journalists, treating them with a hostility that is increasingly seen across the entire French political spectrum.

Journalists in Africa are often treated as spies, terrorists or traitors, and are subjected to threats and physical attacks (that are rarely punished) and to judicial harassment designed to discourage them from investigating potentially embarrassing stories.

* President Yayah Jammeh of Gambia said in 2011: “The journalists are less than 1 percent of the population, and if anybody expects me to allow less than 1 percent of the population to destroy 99 percent of the population, you are in the wrong place.. I don’t have an opposition. What we have are people that hate the country, and I will not work with them.”

Investigative journalism is too often accused of being a form of opposition politics. Obviously there are politicized news media in Africa, but journalists who do nothing more than call on the authorities to account for their actions or draw attention to the population’s problems find themselves accused of “hating their country and government.”

* President Alpha Condé of Guinea in November 2014 said journalists “can do anything they like (…) They can write what they want. It is of no importance. I don’t read newspapers, I don’t go online and I don’t listen to radio stations… I don’t give a damn what Reporters Without Borders writes (…) they don’t rule Guinea. I’m not scared of international law or human rights (…) Everyone will respect the law in Guinea.”

* The bodyguards of President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, at an African Union summit in Cairo in 2010, manhandled a British journalist who dared to ask on what basis he considered himself president. “Are your security guards going to hit me in front of the cameras?” the journalist asked. The enraged Mugabe replied: “Stop asking stupid questions. You are an idiot.”

Mugabe brushed aside a journalist’s questions in a similar fashion in April 2014, saying: “I don’t want to see a white face.” His security detail forced several journalists to delete the photos they had taken of him falling as he left Harare airport in February 2015.

Instead of direct verbal attacks on journalists, Middle Eastern leaders usually resort to illegal arrests, arbitrary prison sentences, torture and enforced disappearances when expressing their contempt for the media.

Journalists in the Middle East are often convicted on such charges as “disseminating false information endangering state security,” “supporting or condoning terrorism” or “disturbing public order.” Many have been treated as spies, liars or idiots, but few presidents have publicly voiced such accusations.

* President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has been very inaccessible since the start of the crisis in Syria although it is the world’s deadliest country for journalists.

* President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria has also been rarely exposed to the media since his health deteriorated.

* Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei of Iran has never given an interview or news conference since taking over in 1989. In 2000, he described the pro-reform press that had emerged since President Mohammad Khatami’s election in 1997 as “a base of operations by foreign enemies inside our country.” The comment was accompanied by an order to carry out raids on journalists and media outlets.

Since then, at least 300 media outlets have been closed as “foreign enemies within the country,” thousands of news websites have been censored and more than 500 journalists, bloggers and other online information activists have been arbitrarily arrested, tortured and given long jail terms, while many others have had to flee abroad. New media and satellite TV stations broadcasting to Iran from outside the country are the latest targets. Iran is now one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists.

* President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt has accused journalists who do not toe the government line of being “terrorists.” Not that a great deal is said on the subject. Sisi’s regime prefers imprisonment to insults.