Fundamental Freedoms

Press Freedom

This section created by:
Ottilia Chareka
and Carla Peck

This century, and especially the past decade, has seen remarkable gains for freedom of the press throughout the world. One hundred years ago, press freedom barely existed outside North America and a few Western European countries, and no one expected that things would be otherwise.

Press Freedom

Did you know that Press Freedom is not enjoyed equally around the world?

Read the survey which explains the pie chart and map at

World map that shows free and not free countries

What does Press Freedom mean to...

Nicholas Daniloff, Moscow correspondent, U.S. News & World Report:

The Soviet press in the past - although not as true today - was less than a mirror of the surrounding world. I think part of this is because Lenin viewed the press as one of the tools of government. The role of the press was to be a handmaiden in constructing socialism and, eventually, communism. Believing that people would be demoralized, the Soviet press did not attempt to report that accidents had happened, that there had been an earthquake, that a ship had sunk and many people had died. Rather, the press tried to give a very bright and rosy picture of the world.
Canadian Journalists and the International Federation of Journalists:
The CanWest corporation is showing the ugly and intolerant face of modern media," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "While openly interfering in editorial content, it cravenly punishes those journalists who have the courage to protest." CanWest has suspended journalists for talking to outside media and disciplined others for protesting over internal censorship. Journalists throughout the group - which includes newspapers and television outlets across Canada - have also been angered by the imposition of corporate editorials that destroy local editorial independence.
Vitaly Korotich, Chairman of the Soviet Weekly literary and political review Ogonyok:
You must imagine our country. Once upon a time there was a superpower, and in this superpower, everything was programmed for isolation. What is the difference between an American and a Soviet journalist? American journalists hunt for news. Soviet journalists always receive news. We always received news from the top and were told what was possible to publish and what was impossible to publish. It was not so bad because to edit a newspaper or magazine in those circumstances was very easy work. Before perestroika we had maybe 10 times more liberals than now because it was possible for journalists to tell each other, "You are a genius. I am a genius. We prepared something great, but those people on the top forbid publishing it."
Louis D. Boccardi, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Associated Press:
The best overall explanation for this deadly spike in journalists’ deaths may be one offered by Anthony Collings in a recent book called "Words of Fire." Collings once worked for us, and later worked for The Wall Street Journal and also Newsweek and CNN.

He writes that reporters enjoy relative safety where there is press freedom ... and also where there is no press freedom at all, where the news industry is state- owned or state-controlled.

The greatest danger, Collings writes, is in places where there’s a transition under way between suppres­sion and freedom, where democracy has gotten a foothold and the government’s grip on information is loosening.

Such places were multiplying quickly as the 20th century came to an end.
Relying on information gathered by the Committee to Protect Journalists, Collings says nearly 40 percent of the world’s population now lives in these so-called "battleground" or transitional countries. They are battlegrounds for press freedom, battlegrounds, as well, for many other issues.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that reporters and editors began dying in record numbers at about the time the Cold War ended and pent-up demands for freedom suddenly found room to breathe and to speak.


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Last Updated: 29-Mar-2004