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Global media freedom is at its lowest level for ten years according to a study by a freedom of expression organisation Article 19. The study was undertaken with the social science database V-Dem to launch a unique, authoritative assessment of freedom of expression and information worldwide. It examined the state of freedom of expression in 172 countries.

The report points out that, “The United Kingdom has passed one of the most draconian surveillance legislation of any democracy, offering a template for authoritarian regimes and seriously undermining the rights of its citizens to privacy and freedom of expression.”

On Turkey, “ the data indicates that transparency peaked in 2003, the year that the law on the right to information was adopted, and has declined significantly ever since, now down to almost the level following the 1980 coup.”

According to the IFJ/EFJ more than 120 journalists are in jail or on trial in Turkey, over 200 media outlets have been closed down and nearly 3,000 employees in the media sector have been left without jobs. Withdrawal of press cards, cancellation of passports and seizure of assets have become almost daily routine.

The report’s key findings are:

Global media freedom is at its lowest level for ten years. In 2016 alone, 259 journalists were imprisoned worldwide, and 79 were killed.

Internet censorship has become more pervasive since  2006 (the year that Twitter was launched, and Facebook and YouTube were still in their infancy). Algorithms are increasingly used to remove legal and illegal content with little transparency over the process or consideration of human rights.

Much of
 the world’s online content is now regulated by the community standards of a handful of internet companies, whose processes lack transparency and are not subject to the checks and balances of traditional governance.

Private communications are being surveilled as never before, as states, including the UK, pass legislation to enable extensive digital surveillance.

Governments are using unprecedented legal and other measures to silence dissenting voices and protest by individuals and civil society organisations. These tactics include labelling NGOs as ‘foreign agents’ and the illegal surveillance of NGOs and journalists.

The call for greater transparency is one of the most significant positive shifts over the past decades, with right to information laws now in 119 countries.

Article 19’s Executive Director Thomas Hughes commented:

For the first time, we have a comprehensive and holistic overview of the state of free of expression and information around the world. Unfortunately, our findings show that freedom of expression is under attack in democracies as well as authoritarian regimes…

…Shift in advertising revenues towards the internet has radically altered traditional media companies. Redundancies, cutbacks and the decline in salaried journalists are contributing to concerns about the future of accurate and reliable journalism in the 21st century. The control of information is increasingly in the hands of a few companies with search engines and algorithms now responsible for delivering news and information to digital audiences, and especially those using social media platforms.”

You can read the report at: