The Trump Effect on Global Press Freedom
When it comes to discrediting journalists’ efforts to hold the powerful to account, the United States – historically the world’s foremost defender of the free press – has been showing these countries how it is done. And the international norms that are now being destroyed won’t be easily rebuilt.
LONDON – I had been captive in Afghanistan for about two weeks when the government of my home country, Canada, contacted those attempting to negotiate my release. They told negotiators to get me on the phone the next day, when the United States military would be flying a drone over where they thought I was being held, in order to determine my whereabouts.
The negotiators were unable to secure that concession. (I was released a couple of weeks later in a prisoner exchange.) But the US government’s willingness to help find me, a Canadian journalist who had been kidnapped while on assignment in Afghanistan, represented some semblance of a safety net for people doing a dangerous job. Eleven years later, that safety net is gone – and journalists are in more danger than ever.
Since my release in November 2008, 626 journalists worldwide have been killed while doing their jobs. Today, according to a tally by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 64 journalists remain missing and 250 are in prison. And a new report by the United Kingdom-based charity Article 19 – named for the article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that enunciates the right to seek and receive news and express opinions – concludes that freedom of expression is at its lowest point in a decade, and declining.