Over the past decade, the world has witnessed a deterioration in press freedom. But 2021 and 2022 acted as accelerators for press restrictions. This pandemic and it associated restrictions have allowed some of the world’s political and economic actors to speed up the decline of the journalist’s profession. This journalistic and therefore democratic backslide affects not only traditional medias but also new independents media in the whole world.
General aspect of the situation
First published in 2002, the World Press Freedom Index compare the level of press freedom enjoyed by journalists and media in 180 countries and territories. As a result of this accumulation of data and testimonies by Reporters without Borders, we can distinguish polarities. With the exception of some countries, the Asian, African and South American continents are still areas where the rights of journalists are violated. Press freedoms are of course threatened by civil wars, authoritarian regimes but also by more insidious methods.
The European case
Even in Europe, once one of the most protected places for journalism, the situation is deteriorating. In Poland but also in Hungary, the ruling power is trying to muzzle the opposition media through Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) measures and economic attacks. The modus operandi is simple: sink the opposition media through various measures and finally buy them up to create a monopoly.
For example, in Hungary the ruling party Fidesz, has seized de facto control of 80% of the country’s media through political-economic manoeuvres and the purchase of news organisations by friendly oligarchs. Vikor Orban’s media empire then allows him to spread his ideas much more freely.
These problems of media concentration concern not only state actors but also private actors as in France. 81% of the national daily newspapers, 95% of the general and political news weeklies, 40% of the top fifty news websites, four general radio stations and the private television channels are owned by eight billionaire businessmen and two millionaires. Who controls information control’s public opinion.
Digital information oligopoly
To this must be added the hold of the digital giants (GAFAM) such as Google, Amazon, Facebook or TikTok. In his book, “The Matrice” Christophe Deloire (CEO of Reporters without Borders) talks about a digital coup d’état. He relates democratic regression to the arrival of the web.
“This is the moment when the curve of democratic progress bends and then turns.”Christophe Deloire
The world is in a form of commodification of our public spaces. Democratic institutions no longer decide on the organisation of democratic deliberation, but rather actors such as despotic states or private companies. The plurality of information and thus democracy is in danger.
The result of this disinformation is a war like in Ukraine. This war has been preceded by a propaganda war for 10 years on the part of Putin. This conflict continues with the propaganda media but also with the exactions committed against journalists because of their profession. One of this example being the case of Maks Levin murdered by Russian soldiers.