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Media Freedom has Never Been So Threatened in Democratic Countries: Report

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Map: Reporters Without Borders 2017 World Press Freedom rankings, VOA
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Europe, April 25, 2017: Reporters Without Borders said Wednesday that globally “media freedom has never been so threatened,” as it released its annual press freedom index.

The media rights group pointed in particular to democratic countries as places where press freedoms declined during the past year.

“In sickening statements, Draconian laws, conflicts of interest, and even the use of physical violence, democratic governments are trampling on a freedom that should, in principle, be one of their leading performance indicators.”

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The report said the reductions in press freedoms are most pronounced in places where “the authoritarian strongman model has triumphed,” such as Poland, Hungary and Turkey.

“The rate at which democracies are approaching the tipping point is alarming for all those who understand that, if media freedom is not secure, then none of the other freedoms can be guaranteed,” RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said.

 Most countries show decline

Overall, 62 percent of countries measured showed a decline in press freedom in the 2017 index.

Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands ranked as the countries with the highest degree of freedom for journalists.

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North Korea ranked last, with Reporters Without Borders saying the country “continues to keep its population in ignorance and terror.Also at the bottom of the list, just ahead of North Korea, were Eritrea, Turkmenistan, Syria and China.

Those countries that most improved their scores since the 2016 index were Laos, Pakistan, Sweden, Burma and the Philippines.The biggest decliners were Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Maldives and Uzbekistan.

Trump rhetoric criticized

The report faulted U.S. President Donald Trump and the rhetoric he used since launching his campaign for office, which has frequently targeted media organizations and declaring their stories “fake.”

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“The hate speech used by the new boss in the White House and his accusations of lying also helped to disinhibit attacks on the media almost everywhere in the world, including in democratic countries.”

The United States ranked 43rd on the index, down two spots from 2016.Britain, which decided in a referendum last year to leave the European Union, ranked 40th.

“Donald Trump’s rise to power in the United States and the Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom were marked by high-profile media bashing, a highly toxic anti-media discourse that drove the world into a new era of post-truth, disinformation, and fake news.”

The report said the Middle East and North Africa region continues to be the most dangerous for journalists to work, with Eastern Europe and Central Asia close behind. (VOA)

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Social Media in India: Understanding The Dynamics of ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’

Social media, a double-edged sword, is an evolving forum of communication in the internet media

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Facebook one of the most popular apps in US. Pixabay
Facebook needs to fix itself. Pixabay

Social media is a strange place that connects millions of people worldwide. It is a platform that keeps people engaged in several trending issues. However, the point of concern being, how do they react? This makes social media a double-edged sword.

Let’s take an example. Once, a photo of a young schoolboy from a poor family went viral. The boy was sitting outside a Noida metro station, trying to earn money through a weighing scale and studying at the same time. He caught the attention of one of the commuters. A picture was taken and uploaded on Facebook. The picture went viral. Now, there were several people who came forward to help. One of them was the then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh Yadav, who promised to ensure full opportunity for them to study without having to work.

ALSO READ: Social Media: Here is how it is creating Lifestyle pressure on Youth!

social media
Twitter, the microblogging site has 23.2 million Monthly Active Users in India, which is 2nd largest in Asia-Pacific after Japan with 26 million MUAs. Pixabay

This was one example or the so-called ‘positive side’ of social media. Now let’s turn the page and look at the other side of the road. Here the ‘other-type’ instances on social media:

  • In 2012, morphed pictures and videos of earthquake victims went viral. The morphed images were aimed to show that these were Muslim victims of civil riots in Assam and Burma. This was done to provoke riots by vested interests.
  • There were instances of hate and revenge messages being spread against Hindu migrants living in South India. This resulted in a mass exodus of people from the North East.
  • At an individual level, there are many examples where when a relationship went sour, one of the partners uploaded intimate pictures, videos or information, in revenge against their former partner.
  • Another point of concern is the easy access to all types of porn by minors. This is resulting in rapidly changing social behaviour and redefining morality.

The major problem being stated is that the society as a larger whole is unable to keep pace and social media is, hence, increasing the gap between older and younger generations rather than bringing them closer.

social media
There are over 30 Million LinkedIn Users in India, while 467 million users globally. Pixabay

ALSO READ: Teenagers using Social Media more likely to suffer sleep deprivations: Study

Should there be government intervention in the use of social media?

India is witnessing increasing internet and mobile penetration. With first-time users onto these platforms, the risk of mass hysteria or communal reactions increases. It is imperative for the government to get together all stakeholders of civil society and try and address the issue of balancing media freedom with media regulation.

Putting regulations or any type of curbs on the internet will be a sensitive subject in any type of free society and of course, it will result in certain opposition. However, what we need to understand is, each society is different. Therefore, every society has to develop its own mechanism to address the negative consequences of social media.

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There are 16 Million Instagram users in India. Pixabay

For example, the Indian government had blocked internet services in the state of Jammu and Kashmir during the period of eid in 2015. It was a preventive measure. However, despite the ban, there were clashes with the police and violence. The point of concern being, the situation could have been much worse had the internet and social media been accessible.

With the world getting increasingly connected through the web and India on the cusp of a ‘Digital’ revolution, the government must take up establishing clear cybersecurity laws and cyber management policies on an urgent basis. Social media could work as a development catalyst or could become a national threat.