The Media Freedom Coalition (MFC), a partnership of countries working together to promote media freedom has expressed concern over the growing occurrences of transnational repression of journalists and media workers. It called on governments to fulfil their obligations under international human rights law, put an end to transnational repression, and safeguard journalists and media workers from human rights violations and abuse.
The Coalition expressed its concern through a statement in which it emphasized the crucial role of journalists and media workers in promoting the free flow of information, accountability of governments, and exposing wrongdoings.
MFC said: “It’s alarming that governments are targeting them to suppress critical voices, factual reporting, and freedom of expression even outside their borders. This trend not only endangers the safety of journalists and their families, but also undermines the foundations of democracy, good governance, and human rights. The fear of reporting inconvenient truths persists, even when taking a neutral stance.”
The Coalition detailed various strategies used in transnational repression, such as assassinations, detentions, forced return, defamation, physical and digital harassment, threats, and the misuse of surveillance technology, including commercial intrusion software. These tactics are often combined with newer digital forms of repression, while coercion by proxy is also utilized.
MFC pointed out that governments are using digital technologies to control, silence, and punish journalists who report critically from overseas. It adds that governments are resorting to tactics such as malware-based digital assaults, online harassment, smear campaigns, misuse of surveillance, and disinformation. According to the Coalition, journalists in vulnerable situations are subjected to particularly abusive and dehumanizing forms of harassment and women journalists and media workers are disproportionately targeted with degrading, misogynistic, and sexually violent intimidation and harassment.
The Coalition stated that transnational repression increases the price of reporting, which in turn leads journalists and media personnel to self-censorship. This repressive atmosphere, according to MFC, can discourage journalists from delving into and informing the public about important topics, and it can impede the free exchange of information. It adds that transnational repression stifles dissenting voices and undermines the vital role of a free and autonomous media as a watchdog for informed decision-making. It is a crucial tool in exposing corruption, injustice, and other forms of wrongdoing that hold powerful actors accountable.