SLMUN 2021 focuses on Press Freedom

By Anna Shearer (News and Media Team – SLMUN 2021)

Freedom of the press is the understanding that communication through media should be a right to be exercised freely. In simpler terms, the idea that journalists should be able to convey information and opinions and explore the story they are writing about without facing issues of censorship, or in dire cases, face imprisonment or even death.

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that – “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”. For years, journalists all over the world have been deprived of this universal human right to freedom of expression.

A free press is a rudimentary requirement to any democratic society. It finds and passes on news, information and opinions; creating self-reliant cycle of awareness and exchange. This is essential for education in order to make sure people know what is happening in the world we live in and serves as a platform for people to express their opinion. It ensures people have access to the correct information so they do not spread false rumours.

On 3rd of May, World Press Freedom Day takes place as a reminder to governments around the world of their promise of freedom of speech, as a platform for the media to speak up on the issues they have experienced with regards to the world of journalism and lastly to commemorate journalists who have lost their lives trying to tell a story. This year’s theme for World Press Freedom Day is “Information as a Public Good”. The goal is to show that the people deserve credible information and that it is the duty of the journalists to deliver it to them.

As many will likely be able to guess, North Korea has the least amount of press freedom in the world. Article 67 of the North Korean Constitution supports freedom of speech and freedom of the press. However, in practice the press is almost completely controlled by the state and the government only allows speech that agrees with the ruling party. An example of how little freedom of press is present in China is the fact that Kim Jong-Il’s death was not reported until 2 days after it occurred. Journalists in North Korea all come from the working party and to qualify for such a job one must not only carry the correct ideologies but also come from a well-off family. Even for the most insignificant typing error, journalists in North Korea could face imprisonment. The only news that is allowed is that which compliments the regime. There is no political or economic criticism, and the people are not permitted to read the foreign media and will likely be punished for doing so. It is situations like this, situations where freedom of the press is barely in the people’s vocabulary, where change needs to occur. 

Another country with very little press freedom is China. The government is entitled to full censorship and foreign media is barely permitted. In the area of Xinjiang, where the concentration camps for the Uyghur Muslims are based, there is absolutely no media coverage allowed. The European Union has even accused China of harassing and preventing their journalists from carrying out their job.

Unfortunately, there are also many threats to press freedom in other countries such as the United Kingdom. Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 is punishing newspapers if they have not signed up to political control. Other threats include ideas of an online harms regime and tighter criminal laws against government leaks, efforts to reduce the Freedom of Information and the use of state surveillance powers to uncover journalists’ sources. Journalists in the United Kingdom are also affected by multiple legal restrictions of freedom of expression, making their essential jobs unnecessarily difficult.

Throughout history, the world has seen societies emerging with absolutely no freedom of speech or press freedom. These include Nazi Germany and Communist Russia where nearly all parts of life were controlled by the government. The world has also seen people’s revolutions in favour of freedom of speech such as the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the American Revolution and the British Revolution

The media and press are responsible for sharing of information and so are vital to today’s society. Therefore, it is essential to achieve freedom for the press and for journalists by fighting to receive at least the most basic human rights to allow them to write and sgare information without fear. Despite being one of the most important jobs, a journalism is, and always has been one of the most dangerous jobs.  It is our responsibility to stand up for them and start fighting to receive a positive outcome for the betterment of individuals connected to the world of journalism.

At SLMUN 2021, we hope to showcase the talents of our delegate journalists by allowing them to express their freedom through many ways in the committee of International Press Corps (IPC), and set an example to the rest of the world on what journalism should really be about.

Session XIV of SLMUN will be held on the 11th and 12th of September 2021 at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH), Colombo, Sri Lanka. Registrations for delegates, admins and IPC delegates are now open until the 30th of June 2021.

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