Fri | Oct 20, 2017

Censorship on World Press Freedom Day

Published:Tuesday | May 5, 2015 | 12:00 AMJulio E. MuÒoz

SUNDAY, MAY 3, was celebrated as International Press Freedom Day, dedicated by the 1993 General Assembly of the United Nations. On this day, we evaluate the global levels of press freedom and expose authoritarian governments who lack free press institutions and/or the accessibility of free access to news channels.

Freedom House, a leading watch-dog organisation on press freedom, has just released information that the levels of press freedom worldwide have been declining over the last 15 years. The reasons are already widely known: arrests, censorship, abduction and assassinations of journalists. As well, Freedom House highlights North Korea, Cuba, Iran, Syria, and Equatorial Guinea as the worst offenders, currently.

United States fell

two points

In the Americas, the United States has fallen two points due to injury sustained by journalists at the protests of Ferguson, Missouri.

It is not surprising to see Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, or Venezuela among the nations with the least press freedom. In all, the Latin American region has not had a strong presence of countries which the Freedom House has declared free in the past five years. Only Uruguay and Costa Rica continue to be the only Latin American nations among the 63, led by Norway and Sweden.

In addition to these previous threats to press freedom, which will continue to be outlined and fought by those willing, we face a new threat in this digital age. Companies such as Google and Facebook are beginning to consume the audiences of the world, and in doing so, limit the access to information or remove it all together.

facebook

It should be alarming to learn that Facebook has come to deal with a few major companies to provide their online media (among these companies are Buzzfeed, National Geographic, and The New York Times) directly on Facebook's platform.

This should be concerning since we already know that Facebook has roughly 1.3 billion active users, just about one-fifth of the world population, which makes Facebook not only a powerful forum promoting freedom of expression, but also censoring when they see it convenient.

Jeffrey Rosen of the Brookings Institution said it best (2010):

"Facebook has more power in determining who can speak and who can be heard around the globe than any Supreme Court justice, any king, or any president."

It is fitting that the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) conducted a seminar on best practices for journalists to increase their online presence and audiences in an effort to help maintain press freedom internationally.

It is truly daunting to think that in this day and age, journalists face threats not only from internal censorship and violence they already face, but from these "supranational" organisations that view censorship as a tool of business. So as one journalist who looks to achieve the objectives UNESCO has set to accomplish, it is important to observe the necessity of a quality of journalism that is free, independent, and ever changing to adapt to the needs of a growing technological and economic world.

n MuÒoz, Miami, is the former CEO of the Inter -American Press Association.