On #WorldPressFreedomDay, a Reminder: Only 9% of Humanity Lives in Nations That Respect Reporters’ Rights

“This situation is very worrying for journalists and above all for all those human beings who are being deprived of their right to information.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-3-2019

Journalists and advocates for free expression and information celebrated #WorldPressFreedomDay Friday. (Image: RSF)

As the international community celebrated #WorldPressFreedomDay on Friday, a leading global nonprofit warned that only 9 percent of humanity lives in countries with good or satisfactory levels of press freedom.

Journalism advocacy group Reporters Sans Frontières—also known as RSF, or Reporters Without Borders—highlighted the detail from its annual World Press Freedom Index, published last month. Based on the report’s findings, the journalism group produced a color-coded map that shows how each country on Earth generally regards free expression and information.

In honor of the United Nations-designated day dedicated to promoting journalism and reporters’ rights across the globe, RSF explains in a new video and on its website that a full 91 percent of the world’s population lives in countries coded orange for problematic, red for difficult, or black for very serious.

While sounding the alarm about a broad “climate of hostility” toward journalists, the video zooms in on a few countries that saw concerning developments last year—from Mexico and India to Poland, Hungary, and France.

“The situation has worsened even further in Saudi Arabia,” the video explains, pointing to the gruesome murder of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident who was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year.

The video also spotlights the United States, where President Donald Trump’s rhetoric continues to fuel attacks on reporters. It notes that “significantly, the United States has joined the ranks of problematic countries.”

Overall, said RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire, “this situation is very worrying for journalists and above all for all those human beings who are being deprived of their right to information.”

“None of humankind’s big problems—whether global warming, corruption, or gender inequality—can be solved without information that is freely and independently reported and reliable, in other words, without quality journalism,” he warned.

Deloire’s comments came amid a flurry of demands from across the globe on Friday that elected officials and governments commit to safeguarding existing protections for journalists and building upon on them.

“Unfortunately, attacks, threats, harassment, and undue restrictions have become everyday events to journalists and media workers all over the world,” Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a video shared on Twitter. She acknowledged that female reporters disproportionately face violence and threats.

“World Press Freedom Day is an opportunity to commit to actions that can promote more journalism and more transparency for our societies,” she added. “I am convinced we can make the digital landscape a space of freedom, truth, and information.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists marked the day by remembering the at least 1,340 journalists who have been killed because of their work since 1992. The American nonprofit, on its website, pointed out that at least 54 of those reporters were killed last year—an 88 percent increase from the previous year.

Advocacy groups also directed attention to journalists who have been jailed for doing their job, including Pulitzer Prize-winning Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. The pair remains imprisoned in Myanmar after investigating the massacre of Rohingya Muslims—for which U.N. observers concluded the nation’s top military leaders should be investigated and prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

“Whether you are a journalist or not, this day concerns all of us because the truth belongs to all of us,” tweeted Amnesty International secretary general Kumi Naidoo.

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