Journalists face bombs, jail, blacklists as world press freedom declines
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Press freedom is under threat in many parts of the world, campaigners declared on Thursday, the 25th World Press Freedom Day. According to the International Federation of Journalists, 32 journalists have been killed so far this year. And more than 2,500 journalists since 1990.
“A free press is essential for peace, justice and human rights for all,” said UN Secretary General Antionio Guterres in a speech marking World Press Freedom Day.
Journalists and media associations around the world marked the day with debates, special broadcasts and vigils for journalists who have been killed doing their job.
“It is crucial to building transparency in a democratic society and keeping ruling power accountable. It is vital for sustainable development," Guterres said.
“Journalists and media workers shine a light on global and local challenges and tell the stories that need to be told."
Today's reality does not match up to that ideal.
Afghan car bombs
Just three days before World Press Freedom Day, a massive car bomb in Afghanistan took the lives of nine journalists.
“It was a sad day for us,” says Mohammed Sakhi Rezaie, editor of the English-language daily Outlook Afghanistan in Kabul. But he remains defiant.
“At the same day the families of the media gathered in the same place that there was an explosion, they all announced their strong commitment to the freedom of the press and said that such poor acts will not prevent them from working towards writing unbiased information to the people.
“So it is a historical day and a sad day. Historic because our media show that they will strongly resist against terrorism; and sad because we lost lots of our journalists."
Turkish journalists jailed
Apart from paying the ultimate price for their profession, journalists in many countries face increasing problems.
“Turkey is becoming a jail for journalists,” declared a report by rights group Amnesty International, which noted the arrest of 120 journalists over the last year.
The situation for media in countries such as China, Iran or Eritrea remains extremely bad.
East Europeans blacklisted
And, in Europe, the Hungarian government published a blacklist of journalists critical of the government. In some other eastern European countries, the situation seems even worse.
“Things that are ongoing in Hungary are very obvious and explicit,” says Rossen Bossev, a journalist with the magazine Capital in Sofia, Bulgaria
“Here in Bulgaria, the so-called 'blacklists' are informal and not public but they are well known to the journalists. After the financial crisis in 2008-09 the internet affected the print media, it affected a lot the financial sustainability of the media. So they became very weak.
“And for the government it was much easier to make pressure on them. They realised they were dependent on EU funding, on government money and it became much easier to buy media."
Another cause for concern is the growing mistrust of traditional media among the general public, that seems to be increasing as a result of accusations that the media spread "fake news".
With public suspicion, killings and increased control and manipulation of the media, the journalistic profession faces serious challenges today.