World Press Freedom Day: Together we will ensure a free media

World Press Freedom Day: Together we will ensure a free media

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Without press freedom, all our freedoms are at risk. NADJA’s editors reflect on the importance of independent reporting and the powerful movement that is emerging from grassroots newsrooms around the world. 

The cost of suppressing press freedom

By Alia Chebbab

Press freedom is a fundamental pillar of democracy. It’s not just about reporting facts; it’s about holding power to account and giving a voice to those who might otherwise go unheard.  

These last few years, we’ve seen both press freedom and democracy eroded by conflicts around the world. Journalists have been facing unprecedented threats, ranging from physical violence to censorship and imprisonment. 

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 99 journalists and media workers were killed last year – nearly double the number of 2022. Reporting on Gaza has been the deadliest, sparking more than 30 news organisations around the world to call for the protection of journalists on the ground, and for their freedom to report. 

“The Israeli military has made it very obvious to us as journalists that we are direct targets in this war. All our media offices were completely destroyed. Journalists were under fire from day one,” said Al Jazeera’s former Gaza correspondent Youmna ElSayed, talking at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia last month.

Women journalists are increasingly at risk, both on the ground and online. In March this year alone, the Women in Press Freedom, an initiative by the Coalition for Women in Journalism, recorded 71 incidents across 21 countries, with Europe ranking as the region with the most press freedom violations, surpassing the Middle East, North Africa, and North America. Russia led with eight cases, while Azerbaijan, Mexico, and Turkey followed with six each. These cases included a range of violations: detentions, threats and intimidation, and online harassment.

In Afghanistan, more than 300 media outlets have closed and hundreds of journalists have left the country since the Taliban takeover in 2021. Media decrees have been issued to restrict female journalists’ work, prohibiting them from interviewing men and forcing them to cover their faces on TV. In some provinces, women’s voices are not allowed to be heard on the radio. 

“The Taliban don’t want anybody to cover anything related to women’s rights or to LGBTQ rights, or anything that casts the Taliban in a negative light,” says Zahra Nader, editor-in-chief of Zan Times. “They want their propaganda to be the narrative. And if any journalists try to report the truth, their lives are at risk.”

Online, women journalists face a disproportionate amount of threats: misogyny and gaslighting intersect with racism, religious bigotry and homophobia, UNESCO reports. In its paper The Chilling, which looks at global trends in online violence against women journalists, the UN organisation highlights how women journalists are more exposed to online violence now than ever before. 

In this increasingly hostile and violent environment, it is more important than ever that we unite and support each other. The suppression of press freedom carries significant costs, impacting not only journalists but also society as a whole. When media access is restricted, content is censored and journalists are targeted, the consequences are severe. It risks leading to a loss of accountability, the spread of disinformation, the silencing of minorities’ voices, and a reduced capacity for society to make informed decisions. We cannot let this happen.

It has been heartwarming and inspiring to witness the emergence of women-led newsrooms around the world, and especially in the Global South – women journalists refusing to be silent. Born from the need for women to reclaim their narratives and their identity, these newsrooms are reshaping journalism, highlighting issues impacting women and historically undercovered topics. Like us, they are working to make the media industry more inclusive, diverse, and fair, reporting from a gendered, intersectional lens. 

Launched a year after the Taliban takeover, Zan Times has been covering human rights violations affecting women and LGBTQ+ people in Afghanistan.

Boju Bajai shares voices of Nepali women, and focuses on issues that affect women on a daily basis, such as women’s citizenship rights or sexual harassment. 

Operating in what the CPJ calls one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist, Bilan is Somalia’s first all-women media team. Since its launch in 2022, Bilan has been nominated for the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award, which recognises significant contributions to fighting censorship. 

In Brazil, AzMina has been publishing stories highlighting the importance of promoting and protecting women’s rights, aiming to drive greater gender and racial equity. 

The Gender Beat was created to build a supportive community for gender journalists and editors. The digital, global platform aims to facilitate meaningful conversations on reshaping how mainstream media approaches stories about and by women and minorities. 

These are just a few examples among many. This collective strength is essential to overcome the suppression of press freedom and build vital support systems for women journalists. Through collaboration and solidarity, together we can provide empathy, mentorship, and resources for navigating risks and mental health challenges. By uniting, we defend our right to report freely and accurately, providing a platform for underrepresented voices and ensuring a more equitable media landscape.

Why we need journalists 

By Leila Hawkins 

Journalist and filmmaker John Pilger, who sadly died at the end of 2023, said that “it is not enough for journalists to see themselves as mere messengers without understanding the hidden agendas of the message and the myths that surround it.” These are words I have thought of many times since I started working as a journalist, and that have an eerie relevance today as disinformation surges and newsrooms are at best squeezed, at worst beholden to corporate interests and political agendas. 

This is the purpose of journalism. We are here to serve the public – to be their eyes and ears. We are here to question, analyse and question again. And our job is to uncover stories that deserve to be told – whether it’s exposing corruption in the judicial system or sharing the wins of the women ranger teams rescuing orangutans in the rainforest. But it is this pursuit of the truth that puts journalists at risk. 

As my colleague Alia has highlighted, reporters, particularly women, are facing unprecedented levels of danger. There are actors hellbent on suppression of the press, campaigns of disinformation and sowing division. In the last eight years we have seen how successful these have become. We have also witnessed the closure of numerous independent media outlets, vital sources of the information that is often left out of mainstream media, which is itself suffering because of the concentration of its ownership in the hands of a few very influential individuals. 

But despite these odds, there is something powerful emerging. There are many brilliant newsrooms around the world, reporting local stories that matter. And we are starting to come together. We are sharing tools and resources, learning from each other, and working tirelessly together on our shared purpose: to build a fair, trustworthy media. 

So don’t lose faith in journalism. Follow us, share our stories, ask us questions. And we will continue to uphold and promote the principles of press freedom. 


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