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Jun 23, 2022

G7 firm to work closer on media issue

Foreign Affairs News Correspondent
Flags of Groups of Seven countries.
Flags of Groups of Seven countries.

G7 Media Ministers are to work more closely together on issues regarding our media policies and their role in strengthening democracy- a task that requires a global response.

Met in Bonn on June 19, 2022 the G7 Ministers issuing a statement saying, “We stand up for open, free and democratic societies to promote and protect them believing that democracies are best placed to serve their people and to address global challenges such as climate change and threats to sustainable development to provide people with the greatest security and freedom.”

According to the press note, the G7 minister also condemned Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, which is being waged against a free and democratic society in violation of international law.

Information manipulation, including disinformation, and hate speech can undermine and hinder open, democratic dialogue and debate, and can promote division and polarization.

As a result of targeted harassment and abuse, some parts of society, especially groups subject to multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination such as women and girls, LGBTQI+ individuals, and members of marginalized racial and ethnic communities, censor themselves, avoid specific topics, and even refrain from participating in public debates online which abuse not only impedes individual ability to exercise their right to freedom of expression, but the suppression of diverse voices results in an opportunity cost in terms of the free exchange of ideas and ultimately lost innovation.

The G7 will take measures to preserve and promote free, independent and pluralistic media landscapes and improve economic, social, legal and actual conditions for those who shape those media landscapes to serve our democracies.

When democracies are under attack, journalists and members of the media are the first to have their human rights curtailed and to face threats and repression.

Women in journalism are disproportionately impacted by threats and attacks, which are more often gendered and sexualized than threats against their male counterparts and increasingly take place online.

Around the world, journalists and media professionals are persecuted, threatened and even killed for their work. In many cases, these crimes go unpunished.

According to the Reporters Without Borders 2022 World Press Freedom Index, press freedom is threatened in 70 countries worldwide; in 28 of those countries, the situation is classified as “very bad,” the release noted.

In Russia, independent journalists and media outlets have long faced oppression, and now those who have reported about the war in Ukraine have been censored, repressed, threatened and forced to close.

But it is not only Russia that suppresses critical and contrary opinions and threatens journalists. Around the world, journalists face harassment and violence for their work, and press freedom is being restricted, both online and offline.

According to Reporters Without Borders, last year more than 400 journalists, media professionals and bloggers were imprisoned, and more than 40 were killed for their work. At least 12 journalists have been killed in Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion began, it added.

Governments also play a role in maintaining conditions that allow independent media outlets to thrive. Regarding the growing power of state-controlled media structures in multiple countries around the world, it is essential that we continue to fight against state-sponsored information manipulation and interference, including disinformation, while robustly defending media freedom and freedom of expression.

Digital platforms play an ever more important role in this digital ecosystem and in the opinion-forming process online. These private companies have a strong influence on access to and the visibility of media content, and they dominate the advertising market.

The internet and digital technologies enable innovation, the free and open exchange of opinions and ideas, and unprecedented opportunities for participation in public and social discourse, it reads.

However, to fully seize the opportunities digital transformation brings, we should also manage its potential risks. In particular, we reaffirm the need to respond to those actors who threaten freedom and democracy by limiting access to independent sources of information, who inhibit plurality, and who engage in information manipulation and disinformation to sow doubt, distrust and hatred. At the same time, social-media platforms and other digital technologies have given rise to new forms and manifestations of violence through their misuse, including amplification of pre-existing forms of gender-based violence through their scale, speed, and reach.

We strongly encourage platforms to act responsibly, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, to prevent and address situations where their algorithms may elevate or amplify content that either incites imminent violence or otherwise violates the platforms’ own terms of service and policies.

We will promote access to a variety of sources of information and a range of opinions to facilitate pluralistic, vibrant democratic discourse and participation in society, while also supporting a secure public space of communication and ensuring that individuals have ready access to independent, fact-based, trustworthy sources of information – offline as well as online.

That is why we have extensively discussed media policy online and offline issues, especially access to and availability of trustworthy information, freedom from discrimination, equality of opportunity, transparency and user autonomy. We have also talked about human rights.

In addition to traditional media, civil-society initiatives also play a key role in a vibrant democracy and make a vital contribution to enabling individuals to form opinions.

They create new opportunities for participation, especially for marginalized groups, and empower public opinion-forming, as well as providing new media formats. They inform people, raise awareness, and can help improve media literacy and impart trust in democracy and the media.

We have therefore committed to work together more closely in the coming years, especially in Supporting Media Freedom, Protecting Journalists and Media Professionals, Cooperation and Inclusion of Civil Society, Initiating Work Processes – The Way Forward, it said.

In order to achieve these goals, we commit to continue to closely coordinate on questions concerning the spread of content and information from a security, human rights, technical and media policy perspective, and pursue a joint approach to support media freedom and pluralism, create a follow-up process to achieve the aforementioned goals, welcome the input of international experts on media freedom in state decision-making processes, in addition to forums such as the EU, the CoE, OSCE and the UN, actively use opportunities for cooperation with international associations, civil-society organisations and initiatives on current media-related issues, concluded the statement.