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Press freedom more important than ever during pandemic

Canada ranks 16th in the World Press Freedom Index
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(Shutterstock)

Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there is a greater need than ever for press freedom.

May 3 is World Press Freedom Day. It was first proclaimed as such by the UN General Assembly in December of 1993.

It is intended to serve as a reminder to governments of the importance of press freedom.

It is also a day for: 

  • celebrating the fundamental principles of press freedom;
  • assessing the state of press freedom throughout the world;
  • defending the media from attacks on their independence;
  • and paying tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

The theme for this year's day is "Journalism without fear or favour." Sub-themes include the safety of journalists and media workers, independent and professional journalism free from political and commercial influence, and gender equality in the media.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Canada ranks 16th in the World Press Freedom Index. That is an increase of two spots from last year's index. The top-rated country is Norway, followed by Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands. Canada ranks ahead of countries such as Australia (26th), Spain (29th), France (34th), the U.K. (35th), and the United States (45th). 

There is a correlation, RSF says, between a country's ranking and the suppression of the media in response to the pandemic. 

“We are entering a decisive decade for journalism linked to crises that affect its future,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “The coronavirus pandemic illustrates the negative factors threatening the right to reliable information, and is itself an exacerbating factor. What will freedom of information, pluralism and reliability look like in 2030? The answer to that question is being determined today.”

According to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), an analysis of over 112 million social media posts related to COVID-19 found that 40 per cent of posts came from unreliable sources. Over 191 million websites in Europe and North America have published false information. The International Press Institute has found 140 instances of media freedom violations related to COVID-19.

The Moose Jaw Express/MooseJawToday.com will continue to keep you informed during these confusing times.

More information is available from the Committee to Protect Journalists, the United Nations, and Reporters Without Borders.