July 15, 2024

Press Freedom

United States

OPC Supports World Press Freedom Day

People light candles in front of posters of Jamal Khashoggi during a candle light vigil to remember journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul. Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

World Press Freedom Day
May 3, 2019
OPC and Silurian’s

by Bill Collins & Allan Dodds Frank

Around the world, journalists work in a constant climate of fear and intimidation and their safety seems to be declining. Authoritarian governments are making more overt threats against journalists, demeaning the profession as “fake news” and exerting greater control over the media through physical and electronic surveillance. Those hostile moves have led to unprecedented levels of violence against reporters throughout the world. A majority of the world’s population do not even have access to an unfettered free press.

This is the global state of journalism as we observe 2019 World Press Freedom Day.

The annual May 3 event at the United Nations was founded by UNESCO to honor the sacred principles of freedom of the press and the journalists who uphold press freedom with their work every day.
It’s also a time to evaluate the state of press freedom globally and stand up for the brave media under attack.

Press freedom is an essential component of every functioning democracy. And we must stand up and defend journalists and access to the information they provide.

While UNESCO recognizes freedom of expression and freedom of the press as a basic human right, the fact is that a mere 13% of the world’s population has access to a free press, according to Freedom House.

In a data driven world, the metrics used to measure the ongoing state of global press freedom are decidedly negative:

  • 54 journalists were killed in 2018, an increase over the two previous years, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
  • 251 journalists were imprisoned in 2018 for doing their jobThe 2019 World Press Freedom Index from
  • Reporters Without Borders categorizes the media climate in more than three-fourths of the 180 countries studied as “problematic,” “difficult” or “very serious.”
  • In Turkey alone, the regime of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has 191 journalists in jail, 167 exiled and sought for arrest and 34 journalists from other countries targeted, according to the Stockholm Center for Freedom’s ad in the New York Times supporting World Press Freedom Day.
  • Freedom House reports that 68 countries suffered an overall decline in overall freedom (political rights, civil liberties) during 2018 while 50 countries improved.

This marks an alarming 13th consecutive year that the global average freedom score has declined.
But the intimidation and threats against journalists are not limited to foreign countries. Reporters are facing increasing pressure from authorities in the United States.

The U.S. Department of Justice, for example, is considering guideline revisions to make it easier for authorities to access journalists’ records.

And the increased pressure comes as the number of newsroom employees working for U.S. media organizations, especially on the local level, has declined 45% during the last 15 years.

In the United States, the attacks on the news media are also alarming with several incidents of death threats and mail bombs perpetrated by the followers of Donald Trump who subscribe to his “fake news” diatribes.

Other issues -notably access to government records – are serious problems inside the United States. Led by the Deadline Club – the New York City chapter of the national Society of Professional Journalists – a joint effort to strengthen freedom of information laws is being organized. The Freedom of the Press Committees of The Overseas Press Club of America, the Society of Silurians Press Club, the New York Press Club, the Deadline Club and other local professional journalism organizations and local journalism schools are expected to participate.

Every citizen of the world deserves access to unfettered information provided by a free press. That fundamental right to the truth can best be assured when countries support a media environment where reporters can cover politics robustly, where media safety is guaranteed, and where journalists can do their job free of government intrusion. The OPC is forever committed to protecting and promoting journalists and the highest standards of the profession across the globe.

Bill Collins is a former OPC Governor who works as a communications consultant. He formerly worked as communications director at Ford Motor Company based in New York. He is head of the OPC’s Freedom of the Press Committee.

Allan Dodds Frank is Past President of the OPC, from 2008 to 2010, and is a member of the OPC’s Press Freedom Committee. He was president of the Silurians from 2013 to 2015. His work has won Emmy and Loeb Awards, with a career that includes The Daily Beast, ABC News, CNN and Bloomberg.