The role of Member States in ensuring freedom of the press in autocratic regions

The role of Member States in ensuring freedom of the press in autocratic regions
Luana A.

The information we access directly influences our actions and how we perceive the world. This is precisely why freedom of expression and the press are fundamental rights, and the free exchange of ideas is a major force behind thriving civilizations and human advancement. Freedom of the press is essential because it helps keep populations informed about current events and monitors government activity. Although there is widespread awareness of this issue, reporters today still face an increasingly hostile environment in many countries, specifically autocratic regions. According to 2022 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders, press freedom has significantly weakened in Asia due to absolute information control.  The military takeover in Myanmar and the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan were two significant events in Asia last year that contributed to the severe decline in journalistic freedom (UCAnews).

Furthermore, out of 180 countries, North Korea had the lowest ranking for press freedom. The only authorized news source for North Korea's media is the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), which serves as the government's official spokesman. The regime strictly forbids independent journalism and carefully regulates the creation of information (UCAnews). Furthermore, Russia has established 100 new laws restricting press freedom as of July. Hundreds of journalists have already fled the country. Galina Timchenko, a Russian-Ukrainian journalist, has added, "There will be no freedom of press and expression, no respect for human rights in Russia as long as Putin remains in power” (Swissinfo.ch).  The restriction of the press and its independence is a reoccurring problem in Asia. The United Nations, alongside other member states, have played a continuous role in raising awareness and action to help journalists and the population in autocratic regions.

Article 19 of the Declaration of Human Rights states that freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. However, according to the United Nations (UN), to make freedom of expression a reality, there must be: “a legal and regulatory environment that allows for an open and pluralistic media sector to emerge; a political will to support the sector and the rule of law to protect it; laws ensuring access to information, especially information in the public domain; and the necessary media literacy skills among news consumers to critically analyze and synthesize the information they receive to use it in their daily lives and to hold the media accountable for its actions” (United Nations). In addition, the UN has developed a Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which aims to provide a free and secure environment for media professionals in conflict- and non-conflict-affected areas to promote global peace, democracy, and development. To further reinforce prevention, the UN Plan of Action recommends cooperating with governments, media houses, professional associations, and NGOs to raise awareness (Unesco). Member States of the UN, specifically in Europe, have set out to implement change on the issue. One of these countries is Norway, which has played a vital role in the initiative. For instance, Norway's foreign and development policy highly focuses on promoting freedom of speech. Norway’s international and development policy freedom of expression strategy of 2021 outlines the priorities and goals of Norway's efforts to safeguard and advance free speech worldwide. Through its membership in the UN and other international and regional organizations, through bilateral discussion and collaboration, and by offering support to civil society organizations and human rights defenders, Norway encourages freedom of expression and freedom of the press (Government.no).

Throughout the globe, freedom of the press has been continuously threatened. This is a great dilemma since a functional democracy, where all citizens have access to information and the ability to affect societal progress, depends on freedom of expression. In order for other fundamental human rights, including freedom of assembly and freedom of religion or belief, to be realized, freedom of the press is also essential.

 

Works Cited

Government.no. www.regjeringen.no/en/topics/foreign-affairs/human-rights/ny-struktur/promote_freedom/id2358336/. Accessed 13 Oct. 2022.

Swissinfo.ch. www.swissinfo.ch/eng/global-voices-of-freedom_-hundred-new-laws-restricting-press-freedom-have-been-passed-in-russia-/47705546. Accessed 13 Oct. 2022.

UCAnews. www.ucanews.com/news/autocratic-controls-dismantle-press-freedom-in-asia/97178. Accessed 13 Oct. 2022.

Unesco. en.unesco.org/un-plan-action-safety-journalists. Accessed 13 Oct. 2022.

United Nations. www.un.org/en/observances/press-freedom-day/background. Accessed 13 Oct. 2022.