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Cilla Benkö: free speech is not a matter of course

What happens to a society when the voices silenced? It is an issue that concerns all of us.

the Number of threats and hatred directed against individual journalists has grown significantly in recent years. At the Swedish Radio, it is about as many as ten cases every day that come in via email, telephone and social media. The threats and the hatred is, of course, extremely disagreeable on a personal level, but also have severe consequences for democracy. We see by experience, that it will lead to journalists opting out of subjects and the areas monitored. Not all and not always consciously, but we see it happening and it is serious. In practice, this means that we are all deprived of in-depth and investigative journalism, unbiased reporting, which puts light on the injustice and the uncomfortable truths in society.

wide press freedom index that was published on 18 april, which annually measures the situation for press freedom around the world, has a new climate of fear emerged. The clearest trend in this year's survey showed that political leaders, hostility, violence and hatred against journalists led to self-censorship among journalists and the media in general increased during the year. It is a very worrying development. When the elected politicians, on journalists, it provides a legitimacy for others to do the same.

the freedom of speech and freedom of the press is under great pressure. In the world, in Europe and in Sweden. Globally, we see how the list of countries that are becoming impossible for journalists to work in is getting longer. Countries where the basic democratic values of expression and the media can not be guaranteed, and where the journalists and editors who are just trying to do their job, imprisoned, harassed and murdered.

Last year, killed 99 journalists all over the world, according to UNESCO. A pitch-black figure. When journalists are silenced, disappear also important context and perspective, and propaganda is given free reign. The winner will be the forces that want to control the world and who, therefore, sees journalists as an obstacle to be silenced.

the free word. Daphne Caruana Galizia, who revealed many of the political ills in Malta, was found dead in his car in 2017. Viktoria Marinova, who reported about corruption and misappropriation of EU funds, was brutally murdered in Bulgaria to 2018. The same year found the Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak, who examined corruption linked to the Italian mafia, and his partner murdered in her home in Bratislava.

In april, spoke to prime minister Stefan Löfven in the EU parliament and highlighted the importance of strong independent media, at the side of a strong and equal independence of the judiciary. He also urged member states to remember the basic common values which the union was built on: ”the EU can only be a strong advocate for democracy in the world, if the member states at the same time stands up for democratic principles,” he said.

It is good that the government is taking the issue seriously and are pushing it in Europe, where we see a development where increasingly authoritarian governments, such as in Poland and Hungary, would like to see a mediekår who is loyal with the power. Laws that restrict the freedom of the media has been, for editorial assignments have been written about, medieledningar and journalists have been fired and replaced and newspapers bought up and closed down.

the Police need new tools to be able to act decisively and prosecute those who threaten the right of journalists.

we are a worrying development. In Denmark the public service company DR. after a political agreement had its budget reduced by 20 per cent and a tapered, slimmed down, mission with formulations that the DR should have the ”roots of christianity” and ”spread the Danish culture and the Danish cultural heritage”. To DR been altered mission were applauded recently by the commercial according to the Bauer's european ceo Paul Keenan at the international conference Radiodays in Switzerland. A for me surprising, and boring stance.

We high media representatives need to stand up for the probing task, together, whether we represent the public service or commercial media. To provide public service is just a first step for the politicians who want to control the media, the next step will then be the country's commercial media. Therefore, we must stick together. For what happens otherwise?

Well, it very much felt result is fewer voices, fewer perspectives and less investigative, in-depth and independent journalism. It is no use to anyone.

to improve the situation for free speech?

Internationally, it is important that policymakers continue to highlight how crucial the freedom of the press and freedom of expression to a properly functioning democracy. At the high-level visits, they must uncomfortable questions to be asked. Reporters without borders has proposed that the EU appoint a special commissioner with responsibility for freedom of the press and independent journalism. It is a good suggestion.

the Work to take forward a proposal to strengthen the protection for threatened journalists are happening right now in vietnam, it is also welcome.

I have chosen to bet big on the safety issues. Almost all nyhetsmedarbetare within the company have since 2017 is trained in security. We reports to the police any threats that come in, and calls on all employees to report harassment – such as repeated hatred. It is important, not least to show that we do not turn us down. Another important track is the law. The police need new tools to be able to act decisively and prosecute those who threaten the right of journalists. We must at all times safeguard the freedom of speech, so we are also protecting the democratic society.

Read more: a threat to the public service of Europe's politicians

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