Image for representation: AFP
A free press or independent media is one of the four pillars of a functioning democracy. In the 21st century, as we celebrate democratic establishments across the world, it is necessary to keep a watch on the state of press freedom, security and the working conditions of journalists. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights upholds freedom of press under Article 19, which states, "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 regardless of frontiers."
Regardless of recognition of press freedom under international legislations and under state constitutional provisions, the attack on journalists and ultimately on access to information remains a growing concern. According to the UN, 55 journalists were killed in 2021, while 62 of them were killed in 2020. A number of global networks of journalists have led the work of advocating press freedom and provide a platform for journalists to fight such state and non-state actors in unison. Here are the major networks:
Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI)
The NWMI is a network of over 600 women journalists across India providing a space or a forum for women in Indian media to come together and share information, exchange ideas, discuss media ethics and promote gender equality in media. The collective aims to provide a holistic system to support women journalists in terms of space, resources and access to justice in case of rights violations. It also works for getting recognition, fair pay and decent working conditions for women independent journalists in the country.
Check out the website here:
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
IFJ is a Paris-based organisation representing as many as 6,00,000 media professionals across 140 countries. The collective works to strengthen labour rights of journalists and advocates for their fair pay, decent working conditions and gender equality in media recruitment at a global level. One can access records and data documented by IFJ through their campaigns focusing on violence against journalists, impunity to the perpetrators and countries where media freedom is curbed through state laws or private entities.
Reporters Sans Frontiers or Reporters without Borders (RWB)
With 115 correspondents across the world, RWB is a non-profit organisation started by four journalists and headquartered in Paris. RWB is known for its annual Press Freedom Index, one of the most credible indicators of the status of media freedom in over 180 countries of the world. In addition to this, RWB also tracks censorship activities and various kinds of abuse that journalists are subjected to and communicates the information in five different languages. RWB works in cooperation with international rights based organisations to further recommendations to the state in order to provide legal and material resources for journalists and advocate their safety as media personnel.
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
CPJ is known for its Global Impunity Index analysing the state impunity provided to murderers of journalists in democracies as well as in war-torn countries. As an independent and non-profit organisation based in New York City, CPJ documents attacks on journalists and the subsequent press freedom violations and works with the state actors to provide rapid response assistance, legal support and other resources to journalists in danger.
Article 19 mainly works to improve access to information, protect the civic spaces to discuss and dissent and strengthen human rights in the digital space too. Its key areas of work include information, censorship, gender and sexuality, freedom of religion and belief, equality and hate speech and media freedom among others. In line with its objectives to create a safe space for free flow of information, the organisation channelises its resources for the protection of journalists and human rights defenders. Article 19*s annual Global Expression Report and GxR metric provides a detailed picture of the condition of freedom of expression across the world.
Media Defence*s focus lies on providing legal advice, support and resources to journalists, independent journalists and citizen journalists, who are under threat for their reportage and enable them to carry out reporting on issues of larger public interest. An international human rights organisation, in addition to documenting cases, it also intervenes to provide legal recourse to the journalists undergoing trial.