MEDIA freedom across the globe is at its lowest level for at least a decade, according to a new report which claims that monopolisation of the press, government surveillance and a rise in deadly attacks on journalists are stifling freedom of expression.
The study by Article 19, a British human rights campaign group, along with political and social database V-Dem, warns that journalists are facing an increase in not only physical assaults but attacks in the form of new “draconian” surveillance laws and internet censorship.
Turkey had the biggest decline in freedom of speech over the last decade with almost 200 media outlets shut down and a third of the world’s total jailed journalists in its prisons.
The report, published yesterday, measured freedom of expression in 172 countries between 2006 and 2016 using a method called the Expression Agenda.
It used 32 social and political indicators including media bias and corruption, internet censorship, access to justice, harassment of journalists and equality for social classes and genders.
The report claims that the growth of the internet is partly to blame for the global crackdown as a handful of secretive companies and search engines are in control of censoring much of the world’s online content.
Although freedom of expression has declined in many authoritarian countries including Burundi, the report notes that free speech is also under attack in democratic countries.
Article 19 spokesman Thomas Hughes believes that Britain was responsible for one of the most draconian surveillance laws in the world through the Investigatory Powers Act, also known as the Snoopers’ Charter.
The act gives government the power to hack into people’s personal computers, phones and any other device.
National Union of Journalists (NUJ) general secretary Michelle Stanistreet also warned that British journalists are “subjected to invasive surveillance laws,” with those who reported on Edward Snowden's leaks still subjected to an ongoing police investigation.
But Ms Stanistreet said that, while governments deliberately target journalists to prevent public scrutiny of their actions, it is not just physical threats that undermine the ability of journalists to do their jobs.
She said: “Precarious working conditions, redundancies and extensive job cuts, the concentration of media ownership and rampant commercialisation are all enabled by specific legislative frameworks and government laissez-faire attitudes.
“The need for independent and ethical journalism is greater now than it has ever been, but, in almost every country, the media are undergoing significant turmoil and crisis.”
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