Free speech and freedom of the press continue to be suppressed and violated in countries around the world.
Some countries provide strong protections for speech while others suppress it. In countries like Syria and Iraq, journalists face harsh punishments; these punishments include harassment, imprisonment, or even death for reporting the truth to the communities they live in or cover.
Journalism can come at a price
In the last decade, a reported 540 journalists were killed for seeking the truth and reporting it.
In the United States, the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and of the press; this has been upheld by courts of law since established. However, in recent years, many have been concerned about the politicization of the media.
“I think free speech in journalism is the lifeline for democracy. Democracy does not function well without a well-informed public,” said Dr. Nune Grigoryan, assistant professor at Cabrini.
The spread of disinformation in the United States and around the globe also increased with the advancement of technology and through social media.
“The press was to serve the governed, not the governors,” said U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black in the court’s famed 1971 “Pentagon Papers” decision.
In many European countries, free speech is also protected by law, but there have been instances of government censorship and attempts to suppress the press.
In India, the government ordered the internet to be shut down in February of 2021 and imposed restrictions on social media platforms like Twitter. They blocked nearly 1200 accounts, including the accounts of many journalists and news organizations. This was done in an effort to combat journalists and news organizations opinions on three agricultural laws that were passed earlier that year.
It is common for journalists to be imprisoned
“It’s been another recording-breaking year for the number of journalists jailed for practicing their profession,” said Committee to Protect Journalists’ Editorial Director Arlene Getz in a recent article about the rise in imprisoned journalists globally.
As of 2022, China is in first place for most journalists imprisoned by country; Myanmar is in second. Five hundred and thirty two journalists were imprisoned as of mid-December of 2022. Other high-ranking countries include Iran, Turkey, and Belarus.
“It is truly sad to see how many journalists have been imprisoned around the world just for doing their job,” said sophomore finance major Wyatt Haney.
In Russia and China, journalists face serious risks for reporting on sensitive topics. These topics include government oppression, human rights abuses, and corruption. Journalists who report on these issues may be harassed, imprisoned, or even killed. Evan Gershkovich is a journalist who was working for the Wall Street Journal and is currently being held in Russia behind bars.
There are organizations like Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists who advocate for press freedom and support journalists facing threats or attacks while simply doing their jobs.
One issue that has become increasingly important in recent years is the spread of disinformation or fake news. Disinformation can be spread in many ways and through many outlets. It can best be described as false information intended to mislead the viewer.
It can be difficult for journalists to combat disinformation as this information can appeal to people’s emotions and reinforces their existing beliefs. In some cases, it can give the reader exactly what they want to hear depending on what their view is.
To address this issue, many countries have passed laws or created regulations to combat disinformation. A defamation lawsuit is one way to combat the spread of misinformation.
A person can legally sue someone for defamation if they are damaged by a published falsehood about them. However, lawsuits take time to move through courts, and if disinformation is tied to a time-sensitive event, the lawsuit may come too late.
Despite the challenges and hardships they face, journalists around the world continue to do important work. Without journalists, there would be a lot of official acts that would never have been exposed.