During the past year, more journalists and news media support staffers have been killed than ever before. There has been little serious effort to act against impunity for such killings or, indeed, against the many other pressures short of murder placed on a free press in print, broadcast and cyberspace. It is evident that when journalists are deliberately targeted or harassed, it is because the perpetrators have something to hide from public scrutiny.
Many measures that would restrict free speech and press freedom have been enacted or placed under official consideration. Various justifications have been invoked - the struggle against terrorism, national security, blasphemy, protection of children from exploitation and pornography, the invasive nature of new communication technologies, the need to impose journalistic “responsibility,” etc.
In most cases these are merely pretexts to limit the right of citizens to know what authorities are doing or to engage in free discussion of fundamental ideas. New limitations by established democracies are brandished by authoritarian governments to validate their own repression of independent reporting and free comment.
Where such restrictive measures are proposed but withdrawn or circumscribed under public pressure, they nevertheless incite self-censorship.
The time is long past for the international community to rededicate itself to implementing the standing promise since 1948 of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
States and citizens must recognize that no meaningful exercise of liberties is possible unless their application in practice can be described, defended and promoted by a free press in all communication technologies.