World Press Freedom Day 2021

Story by Katie Lennon and Angelika Ziemecki

On May 3rd, people around the world celebrate the United Nations established  “World Press Freedom Day.” This day was not just established in order to celebrate the ability of journalists to publish without censorship, but it is also a day to raise awareness to the numerous countries that still do not have the ability to publish free press. 

The theme for the year of 2021 is “information as a public good,” which celebrates what can be done to strengthen the production and reception of journalism. This theme was chosen to highlight barriers in countries that have limited access to technology. Since modern day journalism has become mostly digitized, it has restricted many countries from receiving or providing information and news. In places such as North Korea, the government is able to control what its citizens view online, therefore preventing them from receiving unbiased news. The North Korean constitution directly prevents freedom of speech and allows the government to control the media. Only the news outlets that are directly in favor of the government are allowed to be viewed by citizens. These types of laws affect several other countries and prevent access to reliable news sources to inform its citizens. 

Countries who have limited access to the internet because of their economy are suffering the most as of right now. Not being able to hear from or have access to what is happening in other countries around them is a burden in itself. During a pandemic, it is especially crucial for countries to go through a constant newsflow to be updated on the amount of cases, new strains, and vaccine information. Because of the lack of internet access, many countries are left in the dark, which can hinder the possible recovery from the virus in that country. Yet, ensuring internet access and being informed are two things that are basic necessities during this climate that are denied to several countries because of their economy or government. 

“I think it is important for countries to learn about new guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the development of new strains since COVID-19 is a global issue,” said senior Allison Fleming.

Limits on the press are not only an issue in other countries, as the United States continues to struggle with equal access to information depending on one’s economic status. Everyone should have equal access to the news, no matter their economic situation; however, barriers such as digital paywalls and libraries closing down prohibit the spread of information among people who have limited access to technology. Digital paywalls are one of the most abundant examples of this issue, which is when a news website requires some type of payment, either a one-time payment or a subscription to their news source, before they give out information. Although this is a way these news sources gain income, paywalls also have the ability to discriminate against people who cannot afford to pay these fees. In addition, those who cannot afford internet access may not be able to even view those news outlets that are available free of charge. 

As a result of libraries shutting down because of the pandemic, many people have had their internet access stripped away. The partial closing of libraries and their updated hours make it difficult for people who rely on the library to access information. This barrier in online news reveals how situational access to online media can be.

Although there is only one day named to celebrate freedom of speech in the press, it is something that should be celebrated every day. Access to news should be a right for everyone, and the more strides we take, the closer we will get to true freedom of press. 

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