20th December, 2017.
The lingering onslaught on media freedom threatens everyone’s rights.
A new report yesterday reaches the unhappy conclusion that freedom of the press has fallen to its lowest level in at least a decade.
The marketplace of ideas still stands, but its foundations are under attack. It’s not a pretty picture. Freedom of expression and information is being rolled back in many places.
Turkey is a clear example of one of the worst. Philippines, Egypt, Poland, Mexico, Venezuela are examples of this.
Around the world, more and more journalists are being silenced, prosecuted or even killed. Last year, according to a survey, 259 were jailed for political reasons and 79 were murdered. “Global media freedom is at its lowest level since the start of the century,” warns the report.
That’s bad enough, but it’s not unusual.
For nearly four centuries, this metaphor has represented the belief that in a free, honest, and transparent competition, the best ideas always win. In democratic societies, freedom of expression, which encompasses freedom of speech and of the press, draws its protection from that belief.
These days, threatening of journalists makes that belief seem naïve.
We are not helpless against disruption of our union’s peace, but we must all break out of our echo chambers and act against it.
For teachers and academic institutions, the challenge is to instil fact-checking and to sharpen each student’s ability to make informed judgments.
For journalists and media organizations, threats should spark an honest reflection on our practices and purpose. Onslaught is a real threat to freedom of speech and of the press, because it has started to compel political leaders to turn to draconian legislation in an attempt to fight back.
Consider the danger. As divisive as our interactions can get on some days, the free movement of concerned citizens’ ideas is still preferable to giving the government more control over our public conversations.
Dictators and strongmen in many places, including unions have often cracked down on media freedom as a central part of their efforts to consolidate control. The drift to authoritarianism in our union, for example, has been accompanied by predictable pressure on the media.
The newest wrinkle is the emerging threat about the editorial column of Monday, 18th of December, 2017, in which some personalities had made privately and publicly. This may be mostly typical destructive blather in our union itself, but there’s a real danger it will fuel crackdowns on the media in other unions, if necessary actions are not taken. If Federated Union of Modakeke Students, of all unions, doesn’t defend the principle of a free media, why would other unions pay it any heed?
All this is not about special privileges for the news media. Long experience shows that when a free press is trampled, it’s part of a much broader assault on everyone’s rights.
The new report from FUMS Parrot serves a useful purpose in shining a light on that threat.