By John Ikani
World Press Freedom Day was created by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1993 to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press.
Press freedom basically gives news publications the right to report what they want without facing punishment from their country’s government.
The organisation – Reporters sans frontières (RSF) also known as Reporters Without Borders (RWB) creates a list every year that rank countries in the world depending on weather their press has complete freedom in their reporting.
Here are a few examples.
Namibia is often the highest ranking African country due to them having specific laws surrounding press freedom.
In 2019, the supreme Court ruled that the Government cannot use national security as a pretext for preventing media outlets from revealing certain information.
This is after journalists were under attack because of a report that suggested Namibian officials were taking bribes.
Nigeria is one of West Africa’s most dangerous countries for journalists with members of the press often spied on, attacked, arrested or even killed.
Online freedom is restricted by a cyber-crime law that is widely used to arrest and prosecute journalists especially if they are criticising the government.
Under President Isaias Afwerki, independent media is often banned in Eritrea. In 2001, at least 11 journalists were arrested after publishing an open letter urging press reforms.
20 years later, it is still believed that these journalists are in prison without access to lawyers or their family.
Why is it important that the press have freedom?
A free press is fundamental to a democratic society. It seeks out and circulates news, information, ideas, comment and opinion and holds those in authority to account.
The press provides the platform for a multiplicity of voices to be heard. At national, regional and local level, it is the public’s watchdog, activist and guardian as well as educator, entertainer and contemporary chronicler.
According to RWB’s Arnaud Froger: “The fight for press freedom is not only a fight for journalists themselves. It’s the fight for every citizens in the world to get access to trustworthy information.”