What’s our role in creating a world with a free press?

“If you have a soul/ your eyes can see, your mouth can speak/ how advantageous to me/  you stand as my witness…”  – Said Zahari –  Resolution (1963)

World Press Freedom Day involves a collective push by independent media, civil society organisations and human rights groups to spotlight the plight of journalists who are harassed, imprisoned or killed in the course of their work.  The Innovation for Change Network includes journalists and fact-checkers across the global South and so today, we honour all those striving for a freer, more transparent world by renewing our commitment to amplify the voices of those on the frontlines exposing corruption and political misconduct.

In 2016, press freedom had reached its lowest point in 13 years with only 13% of the world’s population benefitting from a free press.  2017 saw a record of more than 250 journalists being imprisoned worldwide.

2018 so far has seen a new wave of attacks as Governments target journalists with allegations of fake news in an attempt to discredit their work. From the Ivory Coast to Pakistan,  the repression of free press is a significant indicator of the shrinking of civic space.  In Tanzania, social media platform JamiiForums, is being targeted for the publication of user-generated content critical of the government.

South East Asia has been under scrutiny by media monitoring watchdogs for the severe media crackdown occurring in the region.  Ron Lopez, journalist and creator of the Fakeblok internet browser plug in, believes that such apps will, ‘strengthen the right of the people to information–to truthful and accurate information–as opposed to the “information” that is being proliferated in the social media by empowering them to discern … strengthening people’s trust in the media.’

Journalists’ work is often dangerous, as they report on situations. A vigilant public is the best line of defence they have. We must, therefore, work throughout the year to offer continued solidarity and sustained pressure to ensure that justice prevails for those killed, and the imprisoned journalists are set free, without condition.