Global Independent Analytics

World Press Freedom Day comes amid tough times for journalists

While freedom of information is a fundamental human right, the state of press freedom around the world shows that in dozens of countries, publications are censored, fined and closed down, and journalists and editors are harassed, detained and sometimes murdered

Shakeeb Asrar for USA Today reports: Verbal attacks by presidential candidates in the U.S., new security laws in Europe and increased surveillance of information are some of the new challenges journalists face today, media freedom advocates said on the eve of World Press Freedom Day.

World Press Freedom Day aims to raise awareness of press freedom. It falls this year on Tuesday, coinciding with the 250th anniversary of the world’s first freedom of information law and the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Windhoek Declaration of press freedom principles in Africa.

According to a non-partisan group that observes human rights and other fundamental freedoms, Freedom House, 2015 has been one of the toughest years for press freedom. “In the US, in the run up for the elections, we are seeing a huge amount of polarization in the media, and we have also seen some very troubling verbal attacks against the media and against the idea that journalists should be free to criticize candidates,” the group’s spokesperson said.

As reported by the organization in April, in 2015 press freedom has decreased to its minimum in 2015. Almost 46 percent of the world population live in the regions that have no freedom of press whatsoever while only 41 percent of the population enjoys partly free press.

“What we have seen across Europe has been the use of security and surveillance laws to limit the space for free expression,” read the report. “[It's] a new trend in Europe to use the security laws against the media.”Europe as a whole had the largest decline in press freedom in any regions in the report.

Courtney Radsch, advocacy director at Committee to Protect Journalists, says that sexual attacks on female journalists is another issue that needs to be talked about on Press Freedom Day. "It's much hard to report with sexualized violence,” she said. “One of the ways to reduce stigma (about harassment of women in the media) is to talk about it, to discuss the issue.” "In the U.S. and Western Europe, we don't really see a lot of imprisonment or murder of journalists as much as we do elsewhere, but that doesn't mean there aren't other threats that undermine a free press,” Radsch said.

Despite being a relatively free country, U.S. has been experiencing increased surveillance and control of information lately, which poses a direct threat to the freedom of the press. Such intrusive tactics are preventing journalists from keeping their sources secret and secure.

"It's important to take a day to remember those [journalists] who paid with their lives, who paid their bodies or are behind the bars (to inform the public),” Radsch added.

 

By Stefan Paraber for GIA.

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