Press Freedom in Retreat

Practicing journalism with full safety guarantees has become increasingly difficult the world over. Hostility toward the media, bullying of journalists, excessive defamation laws and censorship are all gaining ground. Freedom of the press, which yesterday had its international day of celebration, is in retreat in the face of both old and new enemies. These range from drug traffickers to paramilitaries, together with terrorist groups who see reporters as an easy target, as well as nationalism and populism. All of these things are united in their determination to obstruct and cut short the work of journalists through coercion and manipulation and ignore the fact that freedom of the press is a basic pillar of the rule of law and a counterbalance to power.

It is not only totalitarian countries that are a risk for journalists. They are also persecuted and killed in Europe. In less than a year, two reporters who were investigating systematic corruption in the spheres of political power died violently in Malta and Slovakia. These are crimes about which the whole European Union should feel pained, shocked and, at the same time, demand that they do not go unpunished.

Journalism is subject to subtle but damaging threats. The proliferation of “fake news,” foreign interference in electoral processes and the use of personal data to influence citizens are phenomena that have become more prevalent thanks to social media, which has taken disinformation to unexpected extremes.

In the face of this aggression, freedom of the press must be defended so that people have rigorously researched, independent and quality information available to them. When the public has access to news which is true and verified, it can coherently and confidently make decisions. Only in this way does public discourse progress and democracy advance.

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