Tuesday is World Press Freedom Day — a day to celebrate press freedom across the globe and the journalists who bring us truth every day (though we believe it should be celebrated all year).
Since the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed it in December 1993, World Press Freedom Day has served as a day to reflect on issues of freedom and ethics. The UN states it’s also an opportunity to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, assess the state of press freedom throughout the world, defend the media from attacks on their independence, and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
The theme for this year’s World Press Freedom Day is “journalism under digital siege,” which according to the UN spotlights the multiple ways in which our industry is endangered by surveillance and digitally-mediated attacks on journalists, and the consequences of all this on public trust in digital communications.
Far from an exhaustive list, here are a few examples of positive and poor happenings around freedom of the press across the globe.
Good: An EU law aimed at protecting journalists
Late last month, the European Commission (the European Union’s executive arm) announced it wants the EU to adopt a law to protect journalists and civil rights activists from lawsuits aimed to censor them. According to The Associated Press, the proposed law would allow courts to dismiss cases early in the proceedings and puts the burden of proof on the parties bringing lawsuits “to prove that the case is not manifestly unfounded.”
Mixed bag: Mexico’s president, amid a report about violence against media, offers journalists benefits
Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced that government funds would pay for the health insurance and pensions for poorer journalists. According to Reuters, the announcement came one day after a report by Article 19 — a freedom of expression rights group — said violence against the media rose by 85% in the first three years of López Obrador’s administration. In late January, Article 19 called for investigations into the deaths of four journalists who were killed in Mexico in January 2022.
Bad: In South Korea, snooping on journalists’ phone records causes concern
Earlier this year in South Korea, a state investigative agency searching through some journalists’ phone records — and those of their families — ushered in concerns about press freedom. According to The Chosun Ilbo, a daily newspaper in South Korea, a growing number of journalists, civilians and politicians learned that their phone records had been accessed by the agency that was created to investigate corruption among high-ranking government officials.
Good: Two journalists received the Nobel Peace Prize
Today is a good day to remember that two journalists — Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia — were awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize. Ressa and Muratov received the award “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace,” said Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, in the official announcement.
Bad: Russia’s attempted silencing of journalists
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, much has been written about the country’s crackdown on press freedom, along with swirls of disinformation. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new censorship law that effectively criminalizes independent news reporting about the war, and the government has also blocked some Western news sources. According to The New York Times, Russia’s clamping down on news and free speech has been the tightest at any time in Putin’s more than two decades in power.