World Press Freedom Day was observed on May 03, 2019. The day, which commemorates the Declaration of Windhoek, was first proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993. This year’s celebration wasorganised jointly by UNESCO, the African Union Commission and the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. The theme for the celebration was“Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation”.
The Media has always played a central role in the establishment and sustenance of democracies around the world, but as the cyber space takes over as the mainstream medium of communication, very serious concerns of disinformation arises. The digital space is not subject to any form of central supervision and therefore, the flow of disinformation has a far greater impact. This year’s theme addressed the rising concerns about such disinformation as well as the persistent threats journalists face around the globe.
The 2019 theme addressed the necessity of neutrality and authenticity in media reports during elections and questioned the extent to which electoral regulations should be applied to the internet. The programme also included elaborate discussion on the issue of harassment of women journalists faced while covering elections. Furthermore, the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize for 2019 was awarded to imprisoned Myanmar journalists Kyaw SoeOo and Wa Lone. The recipients, who have been sentenced to seven years in jail, are glaring examples of the dangers journalists are subjected to.
According to the report of International Federation of Journalists, 95 journalists were killed in the line of work in 2018. Globally, journalists have been subjected to threats, violence and continue to struggle for their right to disseminate information.
The situation is particularly dire in Bangladesh, which ranks 150th in the World Freedom of Press Index 2019 published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The report mentions the arrest and detention of photojournalist Shahidul Alam as an example of how the judiciary is used to silence dissenters.
According to the report of Article 19, a UK-based Human Rights organisation, there were 31 defamation cases, 71 cases under Digital Security Act 2018, and illegal arrest warrant and 20 more different types of legal harassment against journalists last year. Furthermore, two journalists were murdered, 19 suffered severe physical assault, 156 were victims of different physical attacks and 22 were kidnapped in 2018, according to the Article 19 report.
Compiled by the Law Desk