Cartoon by Matt Wuerker, Politico

Today is the ‘World Press Freedom day”, a day meant to celebrate the right to report on facts to the public without governmental intervention.

And indeed many countries have freedom of press laws. Freedom of press is generally improving over time.

But at the same time there is no lack of threats against press freedom in the world.

Infamous countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and China are locking up or even executing journalists that have the audacity to print facts that do not conform with the governments view of the world.

In North Korea there is a single sanctioned news source, the state news agency KCNA. In Eritrea, the country in the world where press and media freedom is considered second worst only to North Korea, the Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak is imprisoned without trial since 2001.
These are the extremes, you have surely heard about them.

But what about countries like the United States of America, The United Kingdom, or Sweden?


Sweden comes in second place in the world press freedom index by Reporters without borders, America is in place 43.

The UK recently dropped two points. Now ranked at 40, the UK sits behind countries including Surinam, Namibia, and South Africa. [1]

The drop follows the passing of the Investigatory Powers Act last December, which increased the Government’s surveillance powers, as well as proposed plans to crack down on national security journalism. It also comes after a report from the Index on Censorship, which said press freedom was “under threat like never before”. [2]

Even in the country with the worlds second best freedom of press there are considerable issues. Journalists who publish unpopular opinions are often threatened with violence and legal action. Technically these threats are carried out by non-governmental organisations, individuals, and companies. [3]


Safe to say even countries considered “very free” have their issues. But hey, at least no one is being executed right?


The press is a tool far too important to allow for compromises

The press is one of the most important tools we currently have at our disposal as a society.

It allows people to stay informed on current events. it allows for crisis management, and debates. The press is also a wonderful tool for promoting scientific literacy!

However, it’s not being utilized very well, and is under constant threat.

It’s often said that journalism is dead. Because just about all we get to read about is unimportant gossip.

It doesn’t have to be however. External threats aside, it’s up to the citizens to demand a serious press, and to promote good journalism with their choices of news outlets. Simultaneously it’s up to journalists to remember that they are not just writing for entertainment, but do in fact have a duty to society.


So happy world press freedom day, to a world where the press is rapidly losing it’s function.

Hopefully, with the general public recently waking up to these problems we at SLM will be able to wish you a happy world press freedom day with more sincerity next year.