HomeWorldThe Irish Times view on World Press Freedom Day: journalism is under...

The Irish Times view on World Press Freedom Day: journalism is under attack and under pressure


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It has been a bad year for journalists. And nowhere worse than Gaza, where at least 103 journalists have been killed by Israeli strikes in the past five months, according to the NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF). One in 10 journalists in Gaza has died, part of a wider toll of 34,000 who have perished.

And it seems they have not all been accidental, “collateral” damage in Israel’s war – both RSF and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) report “an apparent pattern of targeting of journalists and their families”.

In one notorious case an Israeli airstrike killed eight members of photojournalist Yasser Qudih’s family following a false, subsequent fully refuted, report suggesting he and three other Gaza-based photographers had prior knowledge of the Hamas attack on Israel. The Israeli foreign ministry had made a false claim that “AP, CNN, NY Times, and Reuters had journalists embedded with Hamas terrorists on ( the) October 7th massacre”.

On Friday, as we mark the 31st World Press Freedom Day, the challenge of upholding this essential pillar of our democracy is not for Gaza alone. Even in the EU, media freedom stands “perilously close to breaking point” in several countries, the Civil Liberties Union for Europe, a human rights watchdog, warns. It points to the link between press freedom and the rule of law – and how both are under threat in some increasingly authoritarian member states like Hungary.

Hence the importance of new EU legislation, the European Media Freedom Act, which curbs the use of all-too-common abusive “strategic lawsuits against public participation”(Slapps), restricts the use of spyware against journalists, allows journalists to protect sources, and requires transparency over media ownership.

The least the Irish Government could do is commit to its speedy transposition into Irish law while finally enacting long-promised reforms to the Defamation Act. The case for changes to the slow, unpredictable and exorbitantly expensive Irish regime have been clear for many years. Fixing its defects will enhance the quality of Irish democracy.

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