Written by: Rashmi
“Freedom of the press is not just important to democracy, it is democracy.” – These simple yet powerful words by the famous American broadcast journalist, Walter Cronkite, need to be recalled, especially when the world press is facing disguised attacks.
The challenges of journalists never end. For the past two years, journalists fought through Covid-19 spread, lockdowns, and a lack of resources to get the right news. The trouble has turned digital this year, and the Global Conference of World Press Freedom Day 2022 is set to address that.
Celebrated on May 3, this year’s World Press Freedom Day’s theme is “Journalism under digital siege”. It highlights how journalism is under attack via online surveillance and hacking.
The conference will be held from 2-5 May 2022 by UNESCO and the Republic of Uruguay in a hybrid format in Punta Del Este, Uruguay. It will reunite journalists, policymakers, activists, cybersecurity managers, legal experts, and AI experts worldwide to explore the digital era’s impact on the freedom of expression, access to information, and safety of the journalists.
We, too, understand how digital privacy is a huge concern for journalists. It compromises their safety and impacts the crucial stories they work on, especially in the case of whistleblowers.
The digital siege of journalism hasn’t been quick. Instead, it is a noose tightening gradually to control the media sector and freedom of speech. With the pandemic rising, many media houses had to continue operations remotely. Journalists were using online platforms to access data and cover stories. And while doing so, they also exposed their information to internet companies.
As per UNESCO’s report, , online harassment, data storage vulnerabilities, mass and targeted surveillance, and digital attacks (including hacking) are some of the ways that digital tools have been used to jeopardize the safety and integrity of journalists as well as their sources. “Both state and non-state actors use these tactics to gain access to confidential information and intimidate journalists.”
We have also seen incidences like “Pegasus Project” revelations that underline the fact that surveillance technology is being used to keep journalists under scrutiny. And since most journalists are not aware or do not have knowledge of such digital tools, they may not ensure their digital safety. Internet companies are also not very helpful for data privacy and transparency.
The digital attacks don’t stop here. Online abuse and hostility are also growing, especially against women journalists. In 2021, UNSECO conducted a survey of 901 journalists from 125 countries. The later showed that 73% of them had experienced online hostility, with one in four being threatened with death and almost a fifth threatened with sexual violence. Women journalists also face gendered harassment, and all this poses a threat to their equal participation in media.
Freedom of the press is crucial for any country that wants to remain independent and free. For this, journalists, policymakers, decision-makers, and even common people should come together to ensure free speech and the right to privacy. A few have offered measures to tackle these issues via “new regulations for social media transparency, greater support for genuine public service media, independent state subsidies to trustworthy news outlets, increased media development assistance, and ramped up philanthropic investments.”
We, at Quintype, also support such initiatives. We believe that a free press can liberate a country from injustice and set us on the right path. This World Press Freedom Day, we hope that every journalist feels safe and appreciated for the hard work they put into bridging the truth to us. Let’s support them and encourage their spirits so that free and independent journalism lives and thrives in the years to come.