OPINION
Free Media: “Αct or face the consequences”

As we approaching the World Press Freedom Day on May 3, the newly-elected AEJ President Saia Tsaousidou said that 2021 has already witnessed the murder of a colleague in Athens and two more journalists in Africa this week. “Enough is enough!” she said. “The intimidation of journalists is outrageous. Moreover, it constitutes a real threat for our societies.”

She paid tribute to the work of AEJ colleagues who have for years promoted the cause of media freedom in the Council of Europe (https://search.coe.int/directorate_of_communications/Pages/result_details.aspx?ObjectId=0900001680a2492a#globalcontainer). But the CoE Secretary-General’s call for more intense action by governments is, based on past experience, unlikely to bring any change.

Journalists are almost invariably seen as people to bribe, mislead, flatter, or to fear, not as people whose work underpins free societies she said. Now together with the European Union, we have to go to the source, which is genuinely upholding European values and what they must mean in practice. That is what World Free Media Day means to me. Almost everywhere the opposite is happening.

She singled out Poland as an example of solidarity. This was where solidarity was born, from which the great daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza (https://wyborcza.pl/0,173236.html?disableRedirects=true) emerged. Now the government is doing all it can to ruin it with lawsuits, and buy up all media it cannot control.”

They were much more effective in silencing free media than the Communists had been”, she said. “Are they not ashamed that Poland has just, according to Freedom House, recorded the sharpest decline ever in democracy in a region of 29 countries? Just behind Hungary!”

The AEJ President praised Věra Jourová (https://twitter.com/VeraJourova), the European Commission’s Vice-President for Values and Transparency, as someone whose appointment in 2019 showed that the European institutions had finally realized “the need for more competent women in serious jobs.”

There was now a unit with 65 members in Brussels responsible to identify disinformation and propose legislation. I only hope it is not too little too late to stand up to Facebook and Silicon Valley’s flood of nonsense and disinformation.”

The AEJ President also added that just today, it emerged that Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, all claiming to be “doing something” about fake news posted – during last month only – over 100 pieces of disinformation on Covid 19 was viewed around 29 million times. “If that does not alert us as to the obvious need to support serious media and not to interfere with their independence and their survival, what will?”

(The article expresses exclusively perosnal views of the editor)

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