Why is the World Press Freedom Day important?
After liberation from colonialism in the 60s, many African countries faced a long and bumpy road to democracy. Independent free journalism in Africa was very rare throughout much of the 20th Century. On May 3, 1991, a statement on press freedom was produced at a UNESCO seminar in Windhoek, Namibia, by African newspaper journalists.
The Windhoek Declaration is considered to be the first document of its kind in the world. It shaped the principles of the free media and how it should be protected from any political interference. Since 1993, May 3 has been celebrated as World Press Freedom Day.
This day serves as a reminder of ongoing press freedom violations and of the imperative for governments to support journalism. Unfortunately, in many countries journalists are still being censored, and face imprisonment or worse.
Press restrictions in different countries
While some countries have laws protecting freedom of speech, in many cases those principles are adopted only to please the international community. Let’s take a look at a few recent examples.
- India. Journalists in the world’s biggest democracy faced new challenges in 2019, when the Indian government annexed the independent state of Kashmir. Critical voices were suppressed, charges against journalists filed, and many top editors fired.
- Belarus. In May 2020, after the reelection of authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko, mass protests broke out all around the country. Many journalists were imprisoned, fined, and beaten, while media outlets faced heavy censorship.
- Myanmar. In February 2021, a military coup overthrew democratically elected officials. The new government has restricted internet access and arrested numerous journalists, accusing them of spreading false news.
- Hong Kong. The journalists in this region always had more freedom than the media in mainland China. However, since the beginning of anti-Beijing protests in 2019, the government changed their approach. Throughout the demonstrations, journalists were harassed and imprisoned, while media outlets faced censorship.
- Iran. The country is known for heavy censorship and serious freedom of speech violations. As COVID-19 spread in Iran, the authorities started to target journalists whose investigations questioned official government reports.
Iran is not the only country censoring pandemic-related news. There are no reported COVID-19 cases in North Korea and Turkmenistan, and their governments are suspected of hiding information about the virus.
How a VPN helps to maintain the press freedom
Journalists living in restrictive regimes face various obstacles, prohibiting them from doing their work and spreading information to the public. Governments often limit the free press, block social media platforms, rig elections, and keep journalists under surveillance.
For many journalists, a VPN is a vital tool when reporting human rights violations and fighting for democracy. A VPN encrypts your internet traffic and masks your IP address. That means no one can spy on your online activity. Here’s how a VPN benefits journalists:
- Allowing them to access blocked websites and social media platforms.
- Ensuring secure and private communication.
- Allowing them to browse the web privately.
- Masking their online identity and location.
Writing an article criticizing the government in Iran or Turkmenistan could send a local journalist to prison for years, and even put their life in danger. The risk is always high, but a VPN can add a layer of additional protection. NordVPN even has obfuscated servers designed for heavily restricted environments.
NordVPN’s support for journalists
The NordVPN team believes in press freedoms, human rights, and social change. That’s why we’ve has partnered with organizations like AccessNow, Amnesty International, European Journalism Center, and others to promote press freedoms.
In 2020, we donated 175 Emergency VPN subscriptions to journalists. Most of them were investigating protests in Hong Kong and needed a secure tool to help them communicate, avoid surveillance, and bypass Beijing’s internet restrictions. Over 1150 VPN licenses were donated to various organizations and initiatives across the world.
There was plenty going on in the rest of the world too. Mexico-based Defensores de la Democracia (The Defenders of Democracy) preserves investigations by Mexican journalists that lost their lives because of their work. The group has been targeted with phishing and DDoS attacks, but using NordVPN can help them to securely access the resources they need, and avoid hackers.
World Press Freedom Day invites us to remember those fighting for the better tomorrow. While there are plenty of governments that don’t respect democratic values, there are always some dedicated people ready to defend them. At NordVPN, we stand in solidarity with those heroes.
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