Media Freedom Is at an All Time Low, and We Need to Fix That

Louis Violette, Staff Writer

Media freedom is characterized by either having freedom of the press or having freedom from the press. Freedom of the press allows anyone, including you, to have an opinion and criticize anyone else without being restricted or censored by the government. Freedom from the press is having the ability to restrict others’ opinions and criticisms against myself or others. While in some cases freedom from speech, or the ability to block other people’s opinions without punishment is necessary, it is better to have free speech, where the only people that can try to take myself and others down are the people that disagree with me and the people that can realistically take me down are the people that own the discussion platform.

According to Britannica, freedom of the press originated in Sweden where “on December second, 1766, the Swedish parliament passed legislation that is now recognised as the world’s first law supporting the freedom of the press and freedom of information.” Twenty-five years later, the United States of America, recognised Sweden’s passing of freedom of information and copied it into the first amendment to the Constitution. These days, the media is called several names, such as being the Watchdog of the internet which watches the major figures, companies, and politicians, among other groups, and makes sure that if they do something that is seen as socially bad or unacceptable, they will bring light to that issue until they are satisfied with the result. Oireachtas states that “the media keeps us updated on what is going on… The media can highlight where there is injustice in society.” Regardless of how well the media acts as a watchdog, there is always the fear of being canceled on an online forum for voicing opinions– or unpopular opinions.

A problem with the media today is that most, if not all media platforms, are privately owned. So while the First Amendment carries over and influences how major platforms set up their terms and services, it does not protect me with freedom of speech, just from others’ speech on those private discussion forums. According to History, “In 2017, a U.S.-based nonprofit, Freedom House, found that just 13 percent of the world’s population enjoys a free press.” Since then, that percentage could have increased, but 13 percent of the whole world is a scary low number. Considering that there are only 195 countries in the world, and just over 8 billion people spread out among those 195 countries. In a world where media freedom and freedom of the press is considered a major part of the world economy, there is a surprisingly low amount of people that actually have freedom of press.

In the search for ever clearer transparency from companies and governments alike, when the media learns about plans and ideas that governments and companies have been doing behind the scenes without their knowledge, there is always an uproar, and it could be very good or very bad for that company or government. In 2013, a former CIA employee, Edward Snowden, leaked classified documents from the National Security Administration to newspapers in the U.K., United States, and Germany in 2013. The site History states that “his leaks revealed several government surveillance programs and set off a global debate about government spying.” Since this leak exposed actions that the three separate governments were trying to keep secrets that affected these governments directly, the first amendment of freedom of speech and freedom of press does not apply to Edward Snowden, According to the U.S. government site Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, since the definition of freedom of media is “to operate freely in society without government control, restriction, or censorship.”

The idea of media freedom is growing but in reality media freedom in the modern world is deteriorating, with more and more privately owned discussion platforms popping up and few decaying. While the media keeps us updated at a moment’s notice, media freedom has decreased drastically as time goes on and more extreme opinions surface.