When did the media become “enemies of the people”? Reporters Without Borders’ latest Press Freedom Index argues that “hatred of journalism” is reaching a fever-pitch globally, whipped up by demagogues and autocrats who accuse the media of peddling “fake news” or being “terrorists”. Journalists who don’t fall into line are routinely harassed, and in some countries even arrested or killed.
This climate of antagonism towards journalism is having the biggest impact in autocratic regimes such as Egypt or Turkey, but democracies are definitely not immune. In fact, Freedom House reports that global press freedom has “declined to its lowest point in 13 years” with “unprecedented threats to journalists and media outlets in major democracies and new moves by authoritarian states to control the media, including beyond their borders.”
The media are supposed to be the fourth estate. They are a tasked with safeguarding our rights and democracies, holding politicians to account, and speaking truth to power. Instead, they are often portrayed as a fifth column, working on behalf of corrupt elites to protect a failed status quo.
Critics argue that we no longer need mainstream media. They believe that now citizens themselves can hold politicians to account via social media. However, others argue that citizens have limited time and resources, and cannot replace professionals when it comes to investigative journalism. Not to mention the fact that the same regimes most critical of media professionals also seem to have a thing for launching wide-ranging crackdowns against social media. First they come for the journalists, then they come for Twitter.
Is media freedom under threat? Is hatred of journalism weakening our democracies? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!