Governments across the world continue to suppress media through censorship or even arrests of journalists on dubious grounds, a prominent human rights watchdog said on Thursday on occasion of the World Press Freedom Day.
“Governments the world over want to control the media – without an inconveniently free press, officials find it easier to do what they want .
“There are many ways to suppress the media, all of which encourage self-censorship. Dozens of countries jail journalists on dubious grounds of protecting national security,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement.
HRW stressed that officials were able to hide disease outbreaks, critical health data or influence public opinion through pressing media.
HRW said that if the governments failed to exert pressure by legal means, they “try threats, violence, imprisonment, or murder.”
“It’s not only in war zones and dictatorships that journalists take risks to hold those in power to account.
“And independent media are fundamental not only to a well-functioning democracy, but to anyone who wants to know whether tap water is safe for your kids to drink, if veterans are getting proper medical care.
“So today, stand up for a free press,” the watchdog said.
HRW noted that press freedom was suppressed not only in war zones or by dictators, but even by democratically elected leaders.
The watchdog said as an example, the U.S. President Donald Trump labeled any coverage he did not like as “fake news,” the practice which was seized upon by Russia, Syria, Venezuela and some other states.
NAN reports that the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said 81 reporters were killed doing their jobs in 2017, as harassment and attacks on journalists have been on the rise.
Although the number of deaths are slightly down from last year’s total of 93, the IFJ cautioned that an unprecedented number of journalists were jailed in 2017, with more than 250 still in prison.
“Self-censorship was widespread and … impunity for the killings, harassment, attacks and threats against independent journalism was running at epidemic levels,” the Belgium-based organisation said in its annual report, released on Sunday.
Reporters lost their lives in targeted killings, car bombings and crossfire incidents around the world, the IFJ said, although the loss of ground by armed groups reduced journalists’ exposure to the front lines in some combat zones.
For example, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, also known as ISIS) steadily lost ground throughout 2017, with Iraq declaring an end to the war against the armed group.
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