Freedom of the Press – Concept, importance and threats

We explain what freedom of the press is, why it is one of Human Rights and in which countries it is threatened today.

freedom of the press
For there to be freedom of the press, there must be no prior censorship or persecution of any kind.

What is freedom of the press?

Freedom of the press or freedom of the media is a legal and social principle linked to the fundamental human right to free opinion (that is, freedom of expression).

Postulate that States and other powers must not interfere with the free expression of thought through the media (such as the written and audiovisual press). That is, there should be no prior censorship or persecution of any kind as a result of the free expression of ideas.

Freedom of the press is a fundamental right of utmost importance for democratic societies, since it allows free opinion and research on issues of public interest which may well be contrary to the political power exercised by the government, or by powerful sectors of society, as they are influential in public opinion, in which the sovereignty of the vote resides.

This right It was enshrined for the first time in Sweden, in 1766, through a Freedom of the Press Act, and it is also in the Constitution of the United States, protected by the first amendment made in 1791. In addition, freedom of the press is addressed in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which reads:

“Every individual has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; This right includes the right not to be disturbed because of their opinions, to investigate and receive information and opinions, and to disseminate them, without limitation of borders, by any means of expression. “

However, as with many other rights, freedom of the press does not exempt the media from exercising their profession responsibly, nor does it protect them in case of committing crimes such as defamation, or engaging in conduct of lack of professional ethics. Hence, the field of press freedom is always one of continuous tensions between free expression and reporting responsibility.

In the same way, freedom of the press it is not defended equally in all the nations of the world. World indexes of non-governmental institutions such as Reporters Without Borders, Freedom House or the Committee to Protect Journalists, are produced annually to report on the state of media freedom in different regions of the world.

According to the 2020 report by Reporters Without Borders, the countries that offer a worse panorama for the free exercise of the press, classified as a “Very difficult situation”, are the following (the greater the number, the worse the situation):

  • 180 – North Korea
  • 179 – Turkmenistan
  • 178 – Eritrea
  • 177 – China
  • 176 – Djibouti
  • 175 – Vietnam
  • 174 – Syria
  • 173 – Iran
  • 172 – Laos
  • 171 – Cuba
  • 170 – Saudi Arabia
  • 169 – Bahrain
  • 168 – Azerbaijan
  • 167 – Yemen
  • 166 – Egypt
  • 165 – Equatorial Guinea
  • 164 – Libya
  • 163 – Somalia
  • 162 – Iraq
  • 161 – Tajikistan
  • 160 – Burundi
  • 159 – Sudan
  • 158 – Singapore