Press and Internet freedom on decline throughout the world
The state global online freedom is generally on the decline as a result of invasive monitoring policies and legislation that limits free expression.
Concerns continue to grow about the state of freedom online. While the Internet continues to become an increasingly integral part of our daily lives, it seems as if governments and other organizations are looking to tighten their control on it. Be it on a cell phone, computer or even certain devices that are becoming a part of the Internet of Things, online functions continue to become more pervasive in today's society.
This may be a reason why ruling powers are looking to tighten their holds on the Internet. Online capabilities are enabling people to access information that can undermine the power of their governments. Further it is allowing them to disseminate this information to a wider population, which is concerning to some world powers. Even something as simple as Wikipedia can be considered a threat to a government. In China, an individual cannot even so much as look up the Wikipedia page on the Tiananmen Square protest, as it is blocked by a nationwide firewall.
While to many it may seem as if Internet censorship is limited to countries where governments are more authoritative, this is simply not the case. In fact, the United States National Security Administration's PRISM program is one of the most far spanning and invasive online policies in the world.
The Committee to Protect Journalists reported that in late August 2013, the NSA hacked into the private communications of Al Jazeera. This information came to light when Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, leaked information about the program to various news outlets around the world.
The NSA program invaded the privacy of a number of different individuals, however, this is one of the only cases of it accessing a news source. These are alarming capabilities as these media outlets play an important role in communicating the world's events in a fair and accurate manner.
"Countries who seek to gain control over their people through the Internet have their own agendas. They are in search of larger governmental control or even censorship online," Marietje Schaake, a member of the European Parliament told CPJ. "We must ensure the NSA-triggered debate does not become a race to the bottom."
Global Internet freedom in decline
Freedom House published a year review about the state of online freedoms throughout the globe and its findings were not encouraging. Over half of the 60 countries that are included in the report saw declines in freedom, with Vietnam and Ethiopia continuing down a discouraging slope. However, the democracies of India, the U.S. and Brazil also marked troubling declines.
CPJ conducted its own review of the state of online freedom around the world, and how it related to press freedom. The Internet has greatly changed how the news is reported, often with something as small as a Tweet being how an outlet will break a story. Unfortunately, the implications of surveillance policies in light of this change could have devastating implications.
For instance, the source noted that violence has been targeted toward journalists in Bangladesh, Russia and Syria, while online news reporting continues to be censored in these countries as well.This has forced reporters to go back to more analog forms of reporting. Some journalists have resorted using pay phones rather than emails or a cell phone out of concern about who might be monitoring their activity.
These activities are working counteractive to the more liberating aspects of the Internet. If the world is to see the true benefits that online connectivity can provide, it needs to be able to move away from these controlling aspects and become more open to new ideas and reporting.