September 16, 2019

Freedom of the Press

General Assembly: Social Humanitarian & Cultural Committee

Topic: Freedom of the Press

In 1993, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights established the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This mandate has since been renewed under the Human Rights Council every three years since 2008, and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression is charged with leading United Nations efforts in the promotion of freedom of opinion through the lens of international human rights law.

The 2021 World Press Freedom Index, published by NGO Reporters Without Borders, ranks nations across the globe by their level of concern for free press. While many European nations find themselves in the top ten of this ranking, countries outside of the developed world find themselves in high ranks on the list. Ranked #1 is Norway, whose consistent legislation regarding freedoms and responsibilities of journalists helped the nation earn this ranking. The bottom 20 nations on the World Press Freedom Index range in geographic region but are similar in that their governments maintain total control of the media and that they see high numbers of journalists killed each year. Certainly, media restrictions and issues related to the rights of journalists are not neatly sorted by geographic region.

Freedom of the press is undoubtedly linked to several other major issues. In the digital age, internet access and internet restriction are closely linked to media access and journalistic freedom. The World Economic Forum has reported that many nations do not have unrestricted access to the internet – only 24% of the world does. Additionally, the safety of journalists in areas of conflict or high governmental media regulation is a key component of freedom of the press. The Social and Humanitarian Council is tasked with addressing this topic in a way which seeks to provide nations with the resources necessary to promote journalistic freedom and access to the media. Resolutions should address the role of the internet in ensuring and maintaining freedom of the press across the globe.

Focus Questions:

1. How would freedom of the press impact your country economically, socially, and/or politically? How should social media impact freedom of the press? How should we protect journalists on social media?
2. Should there be any limits to freedom of the press? How do we navigate limits such as hate-speech laws or slander laws?
3. Do media outlets have any responsibility to ensure they are publishing factual information?

Research Link:

2021 World Press Freedom Index:

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