MEDIA WORLDWIDE is facing crises on multiple fronts, exacerbated by the COVID19 pandemic. Reporters without Borders released its 2020 World Press Freedom Index on April 21st, noting that the Coronavirus is being used by authoritarian governments to implement "shock doctrine" measures that would be impossible in normal times.
The index shows a "clear correlation between suppression of media freedom in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, and a country's ranking in the Index." Of the 180 countries and territories in the index, Iran (ranked at 173) censored their Coronavirus outbreaks extensively. Iraq, at 162, punished Reuters for an article that questioned official pandemic figures, and Hungary (ranked at 89) has just passed a coercive Coronavirus Law.
The long-term risks of suppressing press freedoms have been exposed by the pandemic. As the death toll mounts amidst an economic crisis of unprecedented proportions, promoting transparent reporting is a global necessity. Yet, several countries stand accused of acting too late in warning the world about the timing and extent of the threat.
The World Press Freedom Index illustrates the oppression of journalists from North to South and a pandemic in its own right seems to have fomented.
In Myanmar, Voice of Myanmar's editor was arrested recently and charged with terrorism for interviewing a representative of the Arakan Army, a rebel group fighting for regional autonomy.
Even the president of the world's most powerful democracy has described the press as "the enemy of the people."
Ultimately, the freedom of the press can only be guaranteed by a coordinated global effort, public awareness and a focus on the long-term advantages of a more critical world.
This year's World Press Freedom Day aims to do just that, under the theme of "Journalism Without Fear or Favour." It calls for awareness on specific issues about the safety of journalists, their independence from political or commercial influence, and gender equality in all aspects of the media.
In the words of Albert Camus, "... without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad."