world press freedom day

  • A Free and Diverse Media is Essential to Protecting Democracy in the 21st Century

    By Danny Sriskandarajah

    Images of protestors flooding the streets – whether in Caracas, Bucharest, Istanbul or Washington DC – send a powerful message to those in power, especially when they are plastered across newspaper front pages. In far too many countries, the response has been to shut down the space for citizens to organise and undermine the ability for dissent to be reported. Even in the most mature of democracies, the ability of citizens to organise and mobilise, and the freedom of journalists to report when they do, are being undermined. In an era of rising populism and spreading curbs on fundamental freedoms, we need to do more to protect civic rights and press freedom.

    Read on: Inter Press Service 

  • Bangladesh: End crackdown on journalists and online critics, and protect freedom of expression

    Bangladesh journalism is not a crime gallo

    On World Press Freedom Day, CIVICUS joins five other civil society organisations in expressing alarm over the increasing attacks against Bangladeshi journalists and online critics, exercising their right to freedom of expression.

    Today, on World Press Freedom Day 2023, we, the undersigned civil society organisations, are alarmed at the increasing attacks against journalists and others, exercising their right to freely criticize government’s policies and practices. The widespread restrictions on freedom of expression undermine the conditions for open political debate ahead of elections, scheduled for January 2024.

    Fifty-six journalists have been reportedly targeted by the government and its supporters in the first three months of 2023. Journalists in Bangladesh are at risk of arrest under the draconian Digital Security Act (DSA) and being subjected to harassment, surveillance, and physical attacks by government supporters.

    On April 4, 2023, in one recent example, a group of armed assailants reportedly attacked Chattogram-based journalist Ayub Meahzi by throwing him off the roof of a two-story building. Meahzi survived but said that he believes the attack was in retaliation for his reporting on the involvement of local government officials engaged in illegal land grabbing and hill cutting.

    On 30 March 2023, authorities arrested Shamsuzzaman Shams, a correspondent for the leading national newspaper Prothom Alo, under the DSA, in relation to his article about cost of living in the country. He was detained in the middle of the night and, accused of publishing content “tarnishing the image of the nation,” among other charges. Matiur Rahman, the editor, of Prothom Alo, executive editor Sajjad Sharif, and an unnamed camera operator at the outlet, and other unidentified people were also sued under the Act, in relation to the same article. Shams has since been released on bail. 12 days following Shams’ arrest, in a speech in parliament, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina castigated Prothom Alo as the “enemy” of the ruling Awami League party, democracy, and the people of the country. Following Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s statement, a group of young people broke into the Prothom Alo office and vandalised the outer office.

    We are disturbed by the continued use of the draconian Digital Security Act (DSA) against journalists in retaliation for their work on topics including governmental policies, alleged corruption, and illicit business practices in Bangladesh. The act permits heavy fines and prison sentences for those who dissent and, with broadly defined “threats”, it allows warrantless arrests based simply on a suspicion that a crime has been committed online. As of early May 2023, at least 339 DSA cases had been filed against journalists since its inception in 2018, according to a trackeroperated by the Dhaka-based think tank Centre for Governance Studies.

    Newsrooms are further being driven towards self-censorship, with government authorities demanding news articles being removed from their websites, as the Digital Security Act allows the Government to order the removal and blocking of any information or data on the internet it deems necessary. The DSA also allows for invasive surveillance by permitting authorities to require service providers and other intermediaries to hand over data without requiring a court-obtained warrant.

    Bangladeshi authorities are also weaponizing other laws against journalists. On 20 February 2023, the Bangladesh authorities stopped the publication of the Dainik Dinkal, after the Bangladesh Press Council, a Ministry of Interior offshoot, rejected its appeal against a government shutdown order on the grounds of violating the Printing Presses and Publications (Declaration and Registration) Act. Previously, the authorities blocked54 news websites with the declared aim of preventing the spread of “rumours” ahead of the December 2018 national election. Prothom Alo special correspondent Rozina Islam faces ongoing prosecution in an investigation under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act and the penal code, in apparent retaliation for her reporting on alleged government corruption and irregularities in the public health sector at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Further, we are alarmed by the ongoing, pervasive impunity regarding violence against journalists, including authorities’ failure to make progress in the investigation into the 2012 murderof journalist couple Sagar Sarowar and Meherun Runi, with the Rapid Action Battalion deferring the submission of its probe report to court at least 95 times.

    The increasing repression and curtailment of the right to freedom of expression is having a chilling effect on journalists and civil society, and seriously stifling journalistic freedoms. The 2022 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders ranked Bangladesh at 162 out of 180, the worst performing country in South Asia.

    The Bangladesh government’s suppression of free speech and media freedom is inconsistent with Article 39 of the country’s constitution and Article 19 of Bangladesh’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

    The Bangladeshi government should:

    1. Immediately suspend the use of the Digital Security Act pending its repeal or amendment in line with international human rights law.
    2. Conduct swift, impartial, transparent and effective investigations into all acts of violence against journalists and hold any suspected perpetrators accountable in fair trials.
    3. Drop all charges against all who have been accused simply of exercising their right to freedom of expression.
    4. End harassment of journalists and protect media freedom. Ensure that people can voice criticism and concerns, both offline and online, without fearing sanctions.
    5. End misuse of laws to curtail the right to freedom of expression in Bangladesh and protect the media’s right to operate freely and independently and respect the public’s right to information through full and unrestricted access to news outlets.

    Signed by

    Amnesty International

    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

    Committee to Project Journalists

    Human Rights Watch

    International Federation for Human Rights

    Reporters Without Borders


  • Press freedom vital in the fight against the pandemic

    hopewell chinono

    Freelance journalist Hopewell Chin'ono. Credit: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

    By , Researcher with CIVICUS

    Access to accurate information is vitally important during the pandemic, so that people can understand how to protect themselves and their families, and to hold their governments to account for their response to the health emergency.

    Just like the virus, the persecution of the press has no borders, affecting journalists in many countries across the region. In its latest global report, the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks civic freedoms, documented that journalists had been detained in at least 28 African countries. This was the top civic rights violation recorded in Africa during the past year.

    Read on Inter Press Service News 

  • World Press Freedom Day - Journalism Assailed On All Fronts

    CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, marks today’s World Press Freedom Day with a call for greater protection and respect for journalists and the vital contribution they make to healthy societies.

    Rising authoritarianism and regressive politics signal a new front in the fight to protect and extend press freedom – and the right of citizens to be informed. Globally journalists are on the front line of a sustained assault on civic freedoms from state and non-state actors.

    The determination of populist leaders to shape and control dominant narratives, together with the rise of fake news, extremist groups and increasing commercial pressure means journalists now not only face detention without trial and criminalisation for doing their jobs, they also face physical attacks, loss of life and livelihoods.

    The CIVICUS Monitor, a new online platform that assesses the quality of civic space in every country, records 101 attacks on journalists between June 2016 and March 2017. It indicates that journalists are often at risk of attack for reporting on political issues, protests, conflicts and state corruption.

    The International Press Institute (IPI) provides further evidence of the risks that journalists face, reporting that at least 83 journalists died as a direct result of their practice in 2016, with almost half of all deaths occurring when journalists were covering armed conflict, particularly in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

    The findings underline the inextricable link between media freedom and civil society freedom - where one is weakened, so is the other. If dissent is to be accepted as an essential part of participatory democracy, then the essential civil society freedoms – of association and peaceful assembly, as well as expression – must be fought for.

    “At a time when independent, critical journalism is desperately needed, such journalism is desperately assailed. A free and independent media is a key ally of civil society in the quest for sustainable development, social justice and human rights. Attacks on the media usually go hand-in-hand with attacks on civil society, and are a barometer of the levels of injustice, corruption and authoritarianism in any society,” warns Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research at CIVICUS.

    "The fight against the current regressive politics, in defence of human rights, can only be won if stronger connections are made between civil society and the independent media. We are being attacked together, we must fight back together," concludes Tiwana.



    CIVICUS is the global alliance of civil society organisations and activists



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