Does freedom of the press really exist?

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One of the biggest stories to erupt into mainstream media in late 2018 was the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi was assassinated on October 2 while in the confines of the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

So, who was Khashoggi and why was he important?

He was an editor and writer for multiple news publications including the South Arabian newspaper Al Watan. At the time of his death, Khashoggi was a columnist for the Washington Post where he was extremely critical of Saudi Arabia’s current leadership and the direction that the country was heading.

Like an Orwellian dystopian novel, the premeditated and sinister murder of Khashoggi revealed to the world the tight grasp of those in power and their abilities to silence those who seek to disseminate the truth.

Unfortunately, Khashoggi is not alone when it comes to media censorship – in 2018 a total of 84 professional journalists, citizen journalists and media assistants were killed worldwide.

Already, in 2019, 14 journalists have been killed, along with one media assistant and one citizen journalist.

A whopping 172 journalists, 151 citizen journalists and 17 media assistants are today still being held captive throughout the world.

Earlier this year eight foreign correspondents in Venezuela were unlawfully detained for reporting on anti Nicolas Maduro demonstrations (Maduro has been the president of Venezuela since 2013, however, he is not recognised as a legitimate leader due to his dictatorship-style ruling and his alleged violations against human rights).

The incidents in Venezuela and Turkey shed only a little light on the severity of just how far people in positions of authority will go to silence journalists.

Norway and Turkmenistan – From one end of the spectrum to the other

The latest addition of the World Freedom Press Index demonstrates that the top 10 countries for freedom of information are:

1. Norway
2. Finland
3. Sweden
4. Netherlands
5. Denmark
6. Switzerland
7. New Zealand
8. Jamaica
9. Belgium
10. Costa Rica

In last place is Turkmenistan at 180th place, with North Korea just one notch above in 179th place.

Reporters without Borders released an article earlier this month claiming that only 9 per cent of humankind lives in a country which has satisfactory press freedom, “the global press freedom indicator has deteriorated by 11 per cent in the past five years” due to stricter censorship laws and large corporations buying out smaller media outlets thus creating biased media.

Where did Australia place on the ladder?

You might be surprised to know that Australia didn’t even make it to the top 15. We are sitting at number 21, which is two places down from last year.  This is most likely due to Australia’s extremely high concentration of media ownership, which became increasingly more concentrated when Nine Entertainment bought out the Fairfax Media Group.

How can journalists promote ethical and independent journalism in a world where freedom of the press is deteriorating?

1. By protecting their sources at all costs: Journalists have died for it, journalists have been imprisoned for it but without sources and without the trust of the public, journalism ceases to exist. 

2. Ensuring that political or personal agendas do not affect your work: If you are in a position where people listen to you, people will try to take advantage of you for personal gain.

3. Limiting the amount of power that large corporations have: Meaning that nations should not allow one or two huge media conglomerates to buy out every other media company.  When a nation’s media is saturated and owned by few companies, bias and fake news become extremely evident.

 

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