UNESCO World Press Freedom Day Today

UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day highlighting the profound challenges to journalism and freedom of speech across the world is being held today.

This year’s global theme is ‘Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law’, and will cover issues of media and the transparency of the political process, the independence and media literacy of the judicial system, and the accountability of state institutions towards the public.

The day, the 25th anniversary of the initiative, will also examine contemporary challenges of ensuring press freedom online.

Last month, Reporters Without Borders published its annual World Press Freedom Index which noted a “growing animosity towards journalists” across the globe.

“The climate of hatred is steadily more visible in the Index, which evaluates the level of press freedom in 180 countries each year. Hostility towards the media from political leaders is no longer limited to authoritarian countries such as Turkey (down two at 157th) and Egypt (161st), where “media-phobia” is now so pronounced that journalists are routinely accused of terrorism and all those who don’t offer loyalty are arbitrarily imprisoned,” RSF said.

The UK was ranked 40th in the list, its worst ever position lower than any other western European nation apart from Italy, behind countries such as South Africa, Lithuania and Trinidad & Tobago.  

It also represents a staggering decline for the UK of 18 places since the Index was first published in 2002.

RSF has highlighted a number of worrying moves against press freedom in the UK such as Law Commission proposals make it easy to jail journalists for obtaining leaked information, the Investigatory Powers Bill, and the initiation of legal proceedings against the BBC and The Guardian by law firm Appleby over the Paradise Papers stories.

Next Wednesday, MPs are due to scrutinise the Data Protection Bill during report stage in the House of Commons. The Bill contains anti-press amendments which would drastically limit the ability of UK news media to investigate and publish high quality journalism.