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Press freedom gains eroded over last decade

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World News Publishing Focus
Your Guide to the Changing Media Landscape

Press freedom gains eroded over last decade

“The problem is that for the last 10 out of 20 years some of the countries have regressed,” says Agnès Callamard, executive director of Article 19, during the Press Freedom Round Table. “If they don't stop that falling down now, we could certainly see a real regression.” Callamard attributes much of the losses in press freedom to the war on terror.

Gamal Eid, Aboubakr Jamai, Shahira Amin, and Guy Berger (left to right).Gamal Eid, Aboubakr Jamai, Shahira Amin, and Guy Berger (left to right).In this context, Shahira Amin, former deputy head of Nile TV in Egypt, who recently stepped down in protest of the station's coverage of the revolution, asks: “When will the last press freedom meeting take place?”

Amadou Mahtar BaAmadou Mahtar BaAmadou Mahtar Ba, CEO, African Media Initiative in Kenya, believes this is a discussion with no end in sight. “When you take the role of the media as a watchdog and really put the spotlight at the helm of government or special interest, by definition they will always try to curb their rights. We will always talk about this.”

Nicolás Pérez Lapentti, publisher and deputy director of new media at El Universo in Ecuador is also pessimistic. This summer, President Rafael Correa slammed the paper, the largest in the country, with a libel suit amounting to US$80 million in damages along with three-year prison sentences for the paper's directors and former opinion editor.

Nicolas Perez LapenttiNicolas Perez LapenttiThe lawsuit followed an opinion column that referred to Correa as a “dictator” and accused him of ordering troops to open fire on a hospital where he was briefly held hostage by protesting police in 2010.

“That lawsuit has had a chilling effect on all of the independent media left in the country,” says Lapentti, “It's not outside the context of Ecuador.”

He adds that small countries like his, and across Latin America where press freedom has slid in recent years, need international help. “We can not do it alone,” he says.

When looking to the future scope of press freedom, the panelists also raise the question of how social media will effect press freedom in the years to come.

Guy BergerGuy BergerGuy Berger, recently appointed director of UNESCO's Freedom of Expression and Media Development, warns that social media can discredit freedom of expression by providing a platform for the dissemination of hate speech, for example. However, ultimately, social media will have to be protected by the traditional media. He referred to a recent erroneous tweet stating that former South African president Nelson Mandela had died.

Berger asks: “This is a tweet, but who is the tweeter?” This is where the media steps in, to distinguish what is true from what is not.


Alexandra Waldhorn


2011-10-12 17:00

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The 71st World News Media Congress, the 26th World Editors Forum and the 3rd Women in News Summit took place from 1 - 3 June 2019 in Glasgow, Scotland.

In this blog, WAN-IFRA provides previews, interviews, summaries of the presentations and other useful information about the Congress.

Participants were also very active on Twitter throughout the event under the hashtag #wnmc19.

In 2011 the newspaper world gathered in Vienna, Austria for IFRA Expo 2011, 63rd World Newspaper Congress and 18th World Editors Forum.

This is the event's live blog.

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