“It is the role of good journalism to take on powerful abusers, and when powerful abusers are taken on, there’s always a bad reaction. So we see that controversy, and we believe that is a good thing to engage in.” Julian Assange.
As the world celebrates World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, the significance of a free and independent media has never been more crucial. This year’s theme – “Freedom of expression as a driver for all other human rights” – emphasises the fundamental role of the media in disseminating information and ideas across borders.
The UN General Assembly established World Press Freedom Day to raise awareness about the importance of a free and independent media in promoting transparency, accountability, and safeguarding human rights. The freedom of the press is enshrined in international law. Despite these efforts, press freedom remains under threat globally.
“Journalists entering the system are unlikely to make their way unless they conform to these ideological pressures, generally by internalizing the values; it is not easy to say one thing and believe another, and those who fail to conform will tend to be weeded out by familiar mechanisms”. ― Noam Chomsky.
According to the World Press Freedom Index 2022 by Reporters Without Borders, a record number of 28 countries are classified as “very bad,” with 12 countries marked red for their poor press freedom situation, including Belarus and Russia. The report also lists the ten worst countries for press freedom, including China, Iran, North Korea, Turkmenistan, and Eritrea.
Even in countries like the UK, media pluralism is threatened, with only three companies dominating the national newspaper market. Legislation such as the National Security Bill seeks to wrongfully charge journalists for reporting in the public interest.
The unresolved case of Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange, and the proliferation of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) makes London the “defamation capital of the world.”
“Many journalists now are no more than channelers and echoers of what George Orwell called the ‘official truth’. They simply cipher and transmit lies.”- John Pilger.
Independent media has the power to hold governments and institutions accountable, promote transparency and foster informed public debate. It also provides a platform for the voices of marginalised communities and for exposing abuses of power.
The business model of traditional media is crumbling and the shift to online platforms has created new challenges for independent media publishers.
The rise of social media has given rise to “fake news,” propaganda and disinformation. Journalists have also been subjected to online harassment and threats, especially women and minority journalists. It’s crucial to support and protect independent media, both financially and legally.
As we celebrate World Press Freedom Day, let us remember the importance of a free and independent media in promoting transparency, accountability and safeguarding human rights. It’s our collective responsibility to defend the right of journalists to do their job without fear of persecution, and to ensure that independent media can thrive in an increasingly challenging environment.