A restrained hand holding a pen

Image courtesy of Sydney Allen via Canva.

Between Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine and the Kremlin’s blackout on independent media, crackdowns and state targetting against journalists in South Asia — specifically Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka, the state spying on journalists in Venezuela, and the ongoing oppression of journalistic freedoms in Myanmar, many countries saw the erosion of media freedoms over the last year. Meanwhile, some counties, such as Turkey and Thailand, are approaching a precipice — a tipping point that will decide whether media freedoms, democracy, and human rights will prevail or whether they will further backslide toward authoritarian regimes. 

Journalists and others working in the media sphere have faced unprecedented challenges in recent years as they were increasingly oppressed, arrested, silenced, threatened, and more. From online attacks and bullying to doxing and physical violence — these challenges can have a chilling effect on media and allow authoritarian governments to thrive. Marginalized media workers such as women, LGBTQ+ reporters, and those from minority groups are especially at risk for such attacks. In a recent report, UNESCO described the added challenges that women journalists face for simply doing their job.  “Globally, women journalists and media workers face increasing offline and online attacks and are subject to disproportional and specific threats. The gender-based violence they are exposed to implies stigmatization, sexist hate speech, trolling, physical assault, rape and even murder.”

This is the context in which we celebrate World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) on May 3, 2023. WFPD’s theme this year is “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of expression as a driver for all other human rights.” This theme represents an inspirational vision for the future where human rights are guaranteed through the work of journalists and free speech advocates. As part of our mission to highlight challenges to freedom of expression and promote human rights, Global Voices launched the Unfreedom Monitor in March 2022, where we analyze and document how digital communications technologies are being used to advance authoritarian governance around the world. Similarly, in our Civic Media Observatory work, we have highlighted the importance of an independent press by exploring how Russia has coopted domestic media to wage a propaganda campaign to build support for its war against Ukraine.

Through these hardships, there are signs of hope. There are still hundreds of thousands of journalists persevering in reporting the truth and working to make changes in their communities. And in some cases, they are succeeding, even in the face of government pressure. One instance is Fiji, where journalists successfully forced the government to roll back a draconian media law. In Côte d’Ivoire, environmental journalists have successfully made headway in reporting on environmental exploitation, prompting the government to implement new protective measures. And in 2022, citizens in Colombia elected a leftist president, signaling a pivot toward a more progressive, egalitarian society where press freedoms can be protected. These are just a few examples of the ways journalists are successfully pushing for a better future, even as authoritarian regimes try to undermine them.

Freedom of expression is one of Global Voices’ most treasured values, and in observing World Press Freedom Day, we emphasize stories that are often neglected in mainstream media coverage, highlighting the perspectives of regular citizens, marginalized communities, and the work of local journalists.

To read a selection of our work on press freedom from the last year, see the stories below:

Stories about World Press Freedom Day 2023