World Press Freedom Day 2017 marks a new low for free speech in Asia

Islamabad, May 03, 2017: On this World Press Freedom Day, the world stands at its lowest state of press freedom in 13 years. In particular, the state of press freedoms in Asia is increasingly becoming enveloped in a climate of fear, with blatant violations of fundamental rights and authoritarian controls taking over the journalistic missions to tell the truth.

As the region experiences a mass convergence of different forms of media into the cyberspace, it is alarming to note that many Asian governments are deploying tools of oppression and intimidation with more impunity than ever. These include an influx of cyber armies attacking journalists online, the dissemination of fake news and propaganda to drown progressive or marginalized voices, draconian legislations, network shutdowns, enforced disappearances, and assassinations of journalists and bloggers.

Increasingly, regimes assigned no-go areas are being heavily guarded. For example, talking about Balochistan in Pakistan, supporting religious freedoms in India, criticism of state policies in the Maldives, engaging in religious dissent in Bangladesh, and questioning war crimes in Sri Lanka have resulted in severe repercussions for individuals in the past.

Additionally, self-censorship to protect one’s life and loved ones has become a cause for dire concern, threatening the very fundamentals that civil liberties have progressed to date. We fear that this will result in a wave of permanent loss of human rights given that only extreme narratives may remain visible across the board.

On this day, we call upon the international human rights community to join hands and hold accountable perpetrators of all forms of violations against press freedoms and civil liberties in the world, especially across Asia.

We also strongly urge regional governments to honour their social contracts to their citizens, in particular journalists and media practitioners who take great risks to tell the truth, question the status quo, and lead the way for freedom of expression which is the fountainhead out of which flow all other freedoms.

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About Bytes for All, Pakistan:

Bytes for All (B4A), Pakistan is a human rights organization and a network of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) professionals and practitioners. It experiments and organizes debate on the relevance of ICTs for sustainable development and strengthening social justice movements in the country. Its mission is “ICTs for development, democracy and social justice”. www.bytesforall.pk