The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released its ‘Attacks on the Press in 2008’ report yesterday and speaking in the preface, Carl Bernstein made two comments that neatly highlight the duplicitious nature of the web when it comes to press freedom:
“[T]he tension between technology and outright repression – the availability of satellite television, the use of the internet as impetus for growth and economic modernization – has rendered obsolete the old methods of press control and suppression of information such as media nationalization and overt censorship.
“In China, which now has more than a quarter billion online users, self-censorship is enforced through government rules and regulations that guide Internet service providers about what news can be posted and who can post it (…) In every country following the Chinese model, internet access has been severely restricted or the plug pulled entirely during periods of potential social unrest.”
While the US’ ranking in terms of imprisoned journalists is low, the country’s actions have ‘a disproportionate impact’ on the rest of the world. With a new administration comes new hope for global press freedom, Bernstein adds.
“President Barack Obama must recognise that whenever the United States fails to uphold press freedom at home or on the battlefield, its actions ripple across the world. By scrupulously upholding press freedom at home, by ending the practice of open-ended detentions of journalists, and by investigating and learning from each instance in which the US military is responsible for the death of a journalist, Obama can send an unequivocal message about the country’s commitment to protecting press freedom. These policies might accelerate declines in the numbers of journalists killed and imprisoned. They will certainly make it much harder for governments worldwide to justify repressive policies by citing the actions of the United States.”