By Alejandro A. Tagliavini *
The governments of the United Kingdom and Canada convened for July 10 and 11 in London a World Conference on Press Freedom with the participation of officials, journalists, academics and businessmen from around the globe along with the hosts, the foreign ministers of both countries and Amal, wife of Goerge Clooney, the British-Lebanese lawyer specialized in the defense of journalists. Meetings of this kind are interesting, but how far the underlying idea is clear.
According to the UN, 2018 was the year of greatest violence against the press since it is recorded, accounting for about 99 journalists killed, 348 imprisoned and 60 taken hostage. Mexico, with nine journalists killed in 2018, is the most dangerous country among those without an “official” war conflict because, in fact, it is waging the atrocious “war on drugs.” Nicaragua and Venezuela are syndicated as two countries with major conflicts. According to Freedom House, only 10% of the world population enjoys an environment with full freedom of the press.
By the way, according to a recent study by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, global organized crime, from Central American gangs to gangs that traffic with migrants, is responsible for the same number of deaths as all armed conflicts in the world: almost 89,000 deaths caused by criminals during 2017, similar to those killed in all active wars. Latin America being the most violent region with 37% of homicides, in particular, Central America leading the homicide rate: 62.1 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Now, there are journalists and leaders who abuse the concepts. According to Bloomberg, three thousand journalists lost their jobs in 2019 in the USA. and the total staff of the media in this country, which has the most powerful industry on the planet, was reduced by a quarter in the last decade. I say that they abuse the concepts because there are those who want to see in the shrinking of the media a kind of reduction in freedom of expression which is completely fallacious.
The fact that some traditional media lose customers given the development of digital media and social platforms does not imply censorship since no one is coercively impeding free dissemination. On the contrary, these platforms have enhanced the capacity of expression of the common citizen.
On the other hand, the law on the way to be enacted in France in the style of that of Germany, “against hatred and violence” does imply censorship. Politicians want Internet platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter and search engines, to remove in 24 hours content in networks that “incite hatred, whether racial, religious or gender, or even violence”, under penalties of fines of up to € 1.25 million.
That is, the State would use its monopoly of violence – its police power – to prohibit violent expressions. Such incoherence, without doubt, conceals censorship.
In contrast to this, a federal court ruled that Trump can not block users who insult him on Twitter, the president’s favorite platform that has 60 million followers. Trump is not exerting violence on these people, who can continue to express themselves freely, he is only managing his property. Anyway, we’ll see what the Supreme Court says.
* Member of the Advisory Board of the Center on Global Prosperity, Oakland, California