Index on Censorship officially launched its Mapping Media Freedom platform at the London residence of Swedish Ambassador Torbjörn Sohlström on Wednesday 22 June.
Mapping Media Freedom is a database tracking threats and violations against press freedom across 42 European countries. The data is mapped to help raise awareness of the pressure journalists face as they do their jobs and help officials to take action to protect press freedom across Europe.
The event attracted journalists and internet rights activists to representatives from organisations devoted to freedom of expression, who were welcomed to the launch by Sohlström had received a special invitation from the ambassador.
Melody Patry, Index on Censorship’s head of advocacy, introduced the MMF tool and reminded the audience of why this project is necessary. She quizzed the audience on headlines mapped during the last month, asking them to guess which country offences took place in. Patry said that these offences take place throughout Europe, not just in countries with authoritarian governments. “It’s a way of highlighting problems, it’s a way of bringing people into the conversation,” Ambassador Sohlström said about the new tool.
Chair of Index on Censorship and Times columnist David Aaronovitch, who participated in a panel discussion with fellow journalists, former head of Swedish Pen Ola Larsmo and Director of BBC World Service Group Francesca Unsworth, said that the media are facing a crisis of authority. “Both everybody and nobody can be believed.” According to Aaronovitch, this state of authority crisis tends to create a demand for new forms of censorship and problems journalists.
The journalists participated in a discussion, chaired by Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg, that examined threats against journalists, hate speech and internet censorship. Unsworth suggested that the world is becoming more authoritarian regarding free speech rights, while Larsmo added that rights were generally moving in a “three steps forward, two steps back,” pattern, and we are living in a moment of retreat.
“People crave the kind of impartial journalism offered by mainstream media,” Unsworth said, noting that there is still a role for journalists.
Larsmo emphasised that common people should understand that their freedom is linked to freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
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