As the international community celebrates World Press Freedom Day, spare a thought for the 27 journalists that have already been killed doing their job since the beginning of 2015.
World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) was proclaimed by the United Nations in 1993 following the recommendation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organisation's (UNESCO) general conference. May 3 was designated as WPFD because the date marks the anniversary of the 1991 Declaration of Windhoek, a statement of free press principles put together by newspaper journalists in Africa.
This year's theme is “Let Journalism Thrive! Towards Better Reporting, Gender Equality, & Media Safety in the Digital Age”.
The first area of focus is concerned with having more quality journalism, ensuring reporting across the globe is more accurate and independent amid continuing advances in technology and commercial dominance.
However, government corruption and censorship stand in the way of balanced, accurate reporting, especially reporting that seeks to expose that very same corruption.
— TodayInCapitol (@TodayInCapitol) May 3, 2015
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) documents the deaths of journalists around the world, and investigates the motives behind their killings. For 2014 CPJ confirmed the killing of 72 journalists and media workers, whose death was connected to an investigated motive, and 19 journalists killed for unknown reasons.
Most of these journalists were covering topics related to human rights, politics and war, with Syria, where 17 journalists lost their lives, proving last year's deadliest country for representatives of the press.
According to CPJ's website, a total of 1,123 journalists have been killed since 1992.
— Amr No 2 CC (@Cairo67Unedited) May 3, 2015
The second focus of WPFD this year is gender equality. Twenty years after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Change – the fourth largest worldwide women-focused conference ever held — gender inequality in the media persists.
Women have always been behind in terms of reaching the top positions in the media industry. Despite being prominent at news desks across the world, all too few women journalists are able to reach decision-making posts.
This year, many women are among the spotlight speakers at the main WPFD event in Riga, Latvia, including female journalists and media executives from the host country, Colombia, Egypt, and other jurisdictions.
Digital safety is the WPFD 2015's third focus, a topic of growing concern because of the risks journalists are exposed to through digital communication, which makes it difficult for them to protect themselves and the sources they use.
On Twitter people heralded the importance of #worldpressfreedomday:
— SayingTruth (@SayingTruth1) May 3, 2015
The Indian media's performance has faced a barrage of criticism over its coverage of the recent earthquake in Nepal, which has claimed over 7,000 lives, with #GoHomeIndianMedia trending worldwide:
— শশাঙ্ক (@Shawshanko) May 3, 2015
— पावक (@GuragainP) May 3, 2015
In Turkey #DünyaBasınÖzgürlüğüGünü — World Press Freedom Day — is a popular topic:
— sosyokopa₺⭐️ (@enjineer) May 3, 2015
Ranked 149 of 180 [in Reporters Without Borders press freedom index], Turkey finds itself behind many African countries in press freedom.
The United States has also seen a steady decline in the free press, according to the same index, just scraping into Reporters Without Borders top 50 in 2015 (49th place) compared to 20th in 2010.
Nordic countries like Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden join the Netherlands at the top of the advocacy group's free press rankings.
But other parts of Europe, including the Balkans and Eastern Europe are going backwards. Secretary General of the Council of Europe and former Norwegian foreign minister Thorbjørn Jagland writes for Open Security:
The safety of journalists is deteriorating in over a third of European states. Investigative journalists have been killed, imprisoned and harassed. Media outlets have been shut down—including, dramatically, the Crimean Tatar TV station ATR which was forced off air. Cyber-terrorists have attacked national television networks.
People from other parts of the world expressed how important freedom of press is in their countries:
— Mohamed Mascud (@MohamedMascud) May 3, 2015
— larissa kamp (@lalykamp) May 3, 2015
— TodayInCapitol (@TodayInCapitol) May 3, 2015
People in Dhaka, Bangladesh formed a human chain to commemorate the day:
A few days ago, renowned CNN Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour was named UNESCO’s goodwill ambassador for freedom of expression and journalist safety. In her acceptance speech, Amanpour emphasized the important role of journalists as “pillars of reform, freedom and democracy”, whose task is to “strengthen civil society.”