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Media freedom faces ‘greatest challenge since the Cold War’

Media freedom faces ‘greatest challenge since the Cold War’

A group of leading international broadcasters said today (May 3) that media freedom faces its greatest challenge since the Cold War with internet blocking, satellite jamming and the return of shortwave jamming.

The statement issued on behalf of the representatives of Audiovisuel Extérieur de la France (AEF), Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) [Australia], British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) [United Kingdom], the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) [US], Deutsche Welle (DW) [Germany], Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK) [Japan] and Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW) said:

“The jamming of satellite broadcasts has become a regular occurrence as regimes seek to block certain services from the being received. This jamming affects area stretching from Northern Europe to Afghanistan and as far south as Northern Africa. We have also seen internet blocking of services and cyber-attacks on media organisations of all over the world, shortwave jamming and disruption and interference with FM broadcasts. Media Freedom has not faced such a concerted campaign of disruption since the end of the Cold War.”

Marking World Press Freedom Day on May 3, the broadcasters called on all nations to recognise the legitimate role played by international broadcasts in offering free access to global media and coverage of events.

During the cold war the jamming of radio broadcasts to east of the Iron Curtain was commonplace. European and US broadcasters worked hard to overcome this in a game of cat and mouse. From the late 1990s digital satellite broadcasting has flourished delivering a wide range of programmes in many languages to communities across the globe. Audiences have been able to benefit from international broadcasts that provide a different perspective on news and cultures.

Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW) works to promote free speech around the world focusing on countries at the lower end of the Freedom House Press Freedom Index, published today (May 3rd). RNW is working independently and with media partners producing multimedia content aimed at sparking discussion and introducing people in a non-judgmental way to information that is lacking in their local media.

Offering a safe haven for the exchange of ideas RNW operates at the limits of what is acceptable for many governments, regimes and interest groups less tolerant of freedom of expression. As such RNW also finds itself in the firing line for censors and has at times been blocked in China, Syria and Saudi Arabia - but also closer to home with several run-ins with Facebook, with content being removed. Social media is an important tool and has played a positive role in advancing freedom of expression around the world - at the same time the commercial rules governing these platforms can lead to certain articles being withdrawn and this threat of commercial censorship is also a concern.

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