The status of free speech in the world

NEWS | 14 November 2017

Increase in online hate speech, the spreading of unverified “fake news” and continuing threats to journalists physical and digital safety. That’s some of the challenges that the changing media landscape have brought, according to the new UNESCO report World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development. 

On November 6, 2017 UNESCO presented their new report World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development -  Global report 2017/2018. The report offers a critical analysis of new trends in media freedom, pluralism, independence and the safety of journalists. In addition, a special focus is put on gender equality in the media. 

Filter bubbles and “fake news”
Access to a plurality of media platforms has continued to expand, according to the report. To sort through the increasing amount of information and to rank search results, algorithms are being used. These have contributed to the creation of what have been called ‘filter bubbles’, which in turn have had an effect on the public debate, mainly when it comes to the increased spread of “fake news” during for example electoral contests.

 Trends show that many new initiatives to counter the spread of hate, misogyny, racism, and fake news online have taken shape. Tools have included media and information literacy campaigns, partnership with fact-checking organisations and support to journalists. 

Reduced confidence in news media
The report also shows a declining trust in news media. Disruptions in the business models of traditional media have been seen as contributing to increasing dependence on government and corporal subsidises, thereby raising concerns on potential impact on editorial independence. 

Continuing threats to safety of journalists
During the period covered by the study, there has been a substantial rise in violence against journalists, including kidnapping, enforced disappearance and torture. Digital safety is also an increasing concern with threats posed by intimidation and harassment, disinformation, website defacement and technical attacks. Women journalists, in particular, have experienced increasing online abuse, stalking and harassment.

Equality in the media
Pluralism continues to be limited by the ongoing fact that women remain heavily underrepresented in the media workforce, in decision-making roles, and in media content, both as sources and subjects.

In response to the continuing marginalization of women, a range of civil society organizations, media outlets and individuals have developed initiatives to change the picture, including through the UNESCO-initiated Global Alliance for Media and Gender and by applying the "Gender-Sensitive Indicators for Media".


The full report will be released in December this year, main trends and executive summaries are already available here. 


Image: Infographic for "Trends in the Safety of Journalists". Download all infographics here.