July 17, 2024

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Around the World, Press Freedom is “Under Attack”

Around the World, Press Freedom is “Under Attack”

Journalists harassed, jailed or killed around the world: International organizations and the media were alarmed by the threats ahead of the 30th anniversary of Press Freedom Day on Tuesday.

“Freedom of the press is the lifeblood of human rights. But around the world, press freedom is under attack,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a video message broadcast during a conference organized by UNESCO at UN headquarters in New York.

“Journalists and media workers are being directly targeted online while doing their core work. “They are harassed, threatened, arrested and imprisoned every day,” he decried.

While he did not mention any names or countries, other speakers highlighted personal circumstances, including Ivan Gershkovich, an American journalist for the Wall Street Journal, who was dismissed on charges of espionage in Russia.

“At the end of the day, the fight for freedom of the press, the fight for Ivan’s freedom, is the fight for everyone’s freedom,” asserted Almar Latur, director of the “WSJ” publication.

He also pleaded that despite the dangers, “we cannot stop reporting what is happening in the world.” “There is no better response to autocracies that try to suppress and trivialize journalism than to give the world better journalism.”

“I’m from Iran, where being a journalist is a crime. Being a journalist, a citizen journalist, you can be sent to prison, killed, tortured,” said Masih Alinejad, a journalist and women’s rights activist living in the US.

According to Reporters Without Borders, 55 journalists and 4 media collaborators were killed in the line of duty worldwide in 2022.

An “unacceptable” situation, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay emphasized, stressing that many of these journalists are killed “in their homes, often in front of their families.”

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An “Avalanche” of Misinformation

For 30 years, if progress has been made to freedom of the press, especially in terms of laws guaranteeing access to information, he assessed, “we also need a lot of clarity, nothing has been obtained, on the contrary.”

Beyond the attacks on journalists, he warned that “the advance of the digital age is changing the entire information landscape,” stressing that in this context, “we need (journalists) more than ever.”

Because “truth is threatened by disinformation and hate speech, which seeks to blur the lines between fact and fiction, between science and conspiracy,” Antonio Guterres added.

The UN Secretary-General also expressed concern over the “increasing concentration of the media industry in the hands of a few and the bankruptcy of many independent media”.

“Technology, which has given journalists the ability to reach people anywhere, has undermined the news business model,” asserted New York Times publishing director AG Sulzberger, “paralleling the avalanche of misinformation, propaganda, commentary, and sensational content on the Internet. It is flooding the information ecosystem and drowning our trusted press.”

“When a free press weakens, democratic erosion always follows. And unsurprisingly, this period of journalistic weakness coincides with the destabilization of democracies and the emboldening of autocracies,” he said.

“Unfortunately, censorship has become the default position of many governments to control what society knows and bend it to their will,” commented Agnes Callamard, Secretary-General of Amnesty International. “But everything bent is our future.”