Building peace in the minds of men and women

World’s newspaper industry assesses state of press freedom

13 June 2018


Maria Ressa speaks at the roundtable

Editors and publishers have painted a challenging picture for the industry, which they attribute to severe political, criminal and other threats.

This was the take-away of a roundtable on Press Freedom, chaired by UNESCO’s director for freedom of expression and media development, Guy Berger. It was part of the World News Media Congress, convened in Estoril Portugal, 6-8 June, by WAN-IFRA, an association which brings together 80 publisher bodies representing 18,000 publications in 120 countries.

During the roundtable, moving testimonies from many parts of the world highlighted increased incitement against the media; misuse of “hate speech” laws to target legitimate criticism; widespread Internet shutdowns; and continued impunity for the killers of journalists.

Calls were made for media actors to show much greater solidarity with each other. The successful awareness-raising collaboration between a group media actors during World Press Freedom Day 2018 was highlighted by Rappler’s Maria Ressa, whose publication took part in the global campaign.

Ressa, who is chair of the jury of the UNESCO-Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, had earlier been awarded WAN-IFRA’s Golden Pen of Freedom at the start of the congress.

The roundtable heard that during World Press Freedom Day campaign, 40 media outlets worldwide had publicised the slogan “Read more, Listen more, Understand more… It all starts with a free press. Celebrating 25 years of World Press Freedom Day”.

Many of the editors present at the roundtable expressed interest in joining if there is a similar joint initiative to mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists on 2 November.

To kick off the discussions, Berger shared the findings of the report on World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development.  The global report traces developments in media freedom, pluralism, independence and safety of journalists.

Another UNESCO feature at the WAN-IFRA congress was the previewing of the forthcoming UNESCO curriculum on “Journalism, ‘fake news’ and disinformation”, one of whose co-editors is Cherilyn Ireton, executive director of the World Editors Forum at WAN-IFRA.