The internet is essential to contemporary journalism and dissenting voices and especially investigative and cross-border journalism networks that rely on information sharing to expose corruption and wrongdoing and to communicate invaluable information to the public in times of crises such as with the current pandemic and invasion of Ukraine.
Repressive actions such as governmental use of digital tools to monitor journalists and their sources undermine journalism and divert resources that could be used for new storytelling to ensure the privacy, safety, and security of journalists and media workers.
Such pressures generate chilling effects via legal and regulatory manipulation, abuse antiterror or similar legislation to quell dissent and censor political speech, and suppress vital information relevant to public health.
State-sponsored or encouraged harassment has also become the bane of many news outlets’ existence especially small and local ones. Add to this multiple new and evolving challenges from data breaches and DDOS attacks to the proliferation of third-party surveillance technologies.
The invasion of Ukraine has demonstrated that in times of conflict, crises, and humanitarian disasters, access to reliable, trustworthy information is of paramount importance.
The Internet has opened up a world of possibilities for citizens’ empowerment and information exchange, allowing independent content producers the ability to:
reach a potential global audience of millions if not billions
target and cater for niche, hyperlocal, local, and other audiences
The Internet has created myriad threats to information ecosystems and freedom of expression. In the area of press freedom in particular, the global trends are disturbingly negative.
Journalists and the news media industry as a whole face unprecedented threats in the changing environment—economic and market challenges, increasing distrust and denigration of their work, and new forms of digital repression—that are often overlooked in today’s regulatory conversations.
These trends have severely affected the role of journalists and are leading to unforeseen consequences for the future of developed and emerging democracies. Authoritarian attacks on press freedom, internet shutdowns, and election interference have become worryingly commonplace.
The lack of public-interest journalism and trustworthy media damages society at large by enabling the proliferation of misinformation and disinformation and endangering access to critical, high-quality information.
All of the previously described challenges are exacerbated by one of the—if not the—most critical challenge currently facing the journalism and news media sector: financial sustainability and economic viability.