Guinean President Alpha Conde attends a working session at the G-20 summit, Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 2017 (AP photo by Michael Sohn).

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing series about press freedom and safety in various countries around the world. In late November, 40 leading radio stations in the West African nation of Guinea suspended their programming in an act of solidarity with another radio station that was closed by the government. The protest was a sign of the growing tension between the government of President Alpha Conde and the Guinean press. In an email interview, Muheeb Saeed, a program officer at the Media Foundation for West Africa, explains what was behind the recent protest, and how press freedom […]

Laotian Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith is greeted by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, Dec. 1, 2016 (Pool photo via AP).

When Laos’ National Assembly ratified the appointment of a new president and prime minister to lead the closed, one-party communist state in early 2016, most analysts viewed the political changes in Vientiane as signaling a shift away from its much larger and influential neighbor, China. Laos, it seemed, was making a concerted attempt to balance relations more equally with its other neighbors. Yet two years on, China’s influence in its impoverished southern neighbor has only grown. A controversial railway project funded by Beijing is moving forward, and President Xi Jinping made a high-profile state visit in November, touting Laos as […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar Assad watch troops marching at the Hemeimeem air base, Syria, Dec. 11, 2017 (Kremlin pool photo via AP).

One year ago, the United Nations appeared to be poised between a moment of renewal and a total meltdown. An energetic new secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, promised to revitalize the organization after a decade of drift under Ban Ki-moon. The former Portuguese prime minister talked about a “surge of diplomacy” and the need to prevent looming conflicts. Listen to Richard Gowan discuss this article on WPR’s Trend Lines Podcast. His audio starts at 29:32: Yet he seemed doomed to run headlong into opposition from the administration of incoming U.S. President Donald Trump. The president-elect had repeatedly belittled and dismissed the U.N., […]

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The rise of populist leaders and parties in Europe and the United States over the past two years has reshaped the political landscape from Budapest to Washington. Challenging elites as corrupt and disconnected from common concerns, these populists claim to derive their legitimacy from the supposed will of the people and usually use their influence to blame some “other” for the country’s ills. They have tried to upend post-Cold War norms on everything from free trade to the integration of Europe, raising fears in the West about the strength of the rule of law and even democracy itself. But this […]

Journalists look on from the balcony as Russian lawmakers prepare to vote in the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, Moscow, Russia, Dec. 6, 2017 (AP photo by Pavel Golovkin).

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing series about press freedom and safety in various countries around the world. On Dec. 5, Russia designated two U.S. government-funded broadcasters, Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, as “foreign agents,” under a new law signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in late November. The moves came in response, Moscow says, to the United States forcing the Russia-backed news broadcaster RT, formerly known as Russia Today, to register as a foreign agent on Nov. 13. U.S. intelligence agencies described RT as “Russia’s state-run propaganda machine” in their assessment earlier this […]

Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo greets supporters, Accra, Ghana, Dec. 8, 2016 (AP photo by Sunday Alamba).

In a recent interview with Al Jazeera, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo offered opinions on everything from the state of democracy in his country to child marriage and Donald Trump. But of all the topics covered in the 25-minute segment, it was his responses to a series of questions on LGBT rights that seemed to attract the most attention, at least domestically. Ghana’s criminal code outlaws same-sex sexual acts, grouping them under a category of offenses referred to as “unnatural carnal knowledge.” When asked by the interviewer, Jane Dutton, why the law remained on the books, Akufo-Addo said he did not […]

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban proceeds to inspect the honor guard during a welcome ceremony in Singapore, Sept. 26, 2017 (AP photo by Wong Maye-E).

Hungary’s controversial prime minister, Viktor Orban, is facing down international criticism and restoring a commanding position at home as the campaign gears up for next year’s general elections, which are due to be held by May. The pugnacious populist has also managed to capture some of the regional and global zeitgeist in the era of U.S. President Donald Trump, making common cause with hard-line nationalists around him and seizing on the aftermath of the 2015 migrant and refugee crisis. However strong he appears, though, Orban’s power in Hungary is in no small part thanks to a divided and discredited opposition. […]

Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron before a lunch at the Elysee Palace, Paris, Dec. 12, 2017 (AP photo by Francois Mori).

Mali is set to hold presidential elections in July 2018. Pre-campaign maneuvering recently accelerated, with candidates declaring and likely candidates readying themselves to run. Although President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita enjoys the structural advantages of incumbency, events since last summer suggest he may be vulnerable next year. Keita, known in Mali as IBK, will likely seek re-election after winning his first term in 2013. He is a veteran politician, having served as prime minister in the 1990s and president of the National Assembly in the mid-2000s. Like much of Mali’s political class, he has been on the political scene since the […]

A masked supporter of Honduran presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla at a roadblock set up to protest suspected election fraud, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Dec. 1, 2017 (AP photo by Rodrigo Abd).

Hondurans went to the polls nearly two weeks ago to elect a new president and a new 128-seat congress, as well as the mayors of 298 municipalities and 20 representatives in the Central American Parliament. They’re still waiting for the winners to be declared. Now, after days of protests, charges of fraud and results that appeared to swing back and forth, the country’s electoral tribunal says there will be a partial recount of 4,753 ballot boxes, equal to roughly 25 percent of polling places. That’s significant, as it means the authorities are actually opening the ballot boxes, which they never […]

Musa Bihi Abdi, the new president of Somaliland, speaks to the media after casting his vote, Hargeisa, Somaliland, Nov. 13, 2017 (AP photo by Barkhad Kaariye).

The candidate of Somaliland’s ruling party, Musa Bihi Abdi, was finally declared the new president of this semi-autonomous region of northwestern Somalia late last month, after eight days of counting, recounting and closed-door negotiations between him, his main rival and the National Electoral Commission. Now Bihi faces the task of dealing with Somaliland’s many challenges, most of all turning a nascent democracy and East African success story into a fully functioning and independent state recognized by the world. The election was declared peaceful and free by both local and international observers, who despite concerns claimed to have “observed a poll […]