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US slams govt-imposed internet shutdowns, seeks accountability for crimes against journalists

US slams govt-imposed internet shutdowns, seeks accountability for crimes against journalists
May 03
11:00 2021

WASHINGTON: Ahead of the World Press Freedom Day, the United States condemned the use of government-imposed internet shutdowns to prevent the exercise of freedom of expression online and urged governments to investigate and seek accountability for all crimes against journalists and media workers.

In a press statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “Tomorrow, the United States joins the international community in celebrating World Press Freedom Day. Information and knowledge are powerful tools, and a free and independent press is the core institution connecting publics to the information they need to advocate for themselves, make informed decisions, and hold governmental officials accountable.”

Stressing that the US advocates for press freedom online and offline and for the safety of journalists and media workers worldwide, Blinken also mentioned the implementation of the ‘Khashoggi Ban’ – in wake of the murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi – to help deter threatening behaviour against media.

Citing the Committee to Protect Journalists report in 2020, the top US diplomat further said that Mexico and Afghanistan had seen the largest number of journalists killed in retaliation for their reporting, while China, Turkey and Egypt imprisoned the most reporters last year.

“Unfortunately, the pandemic has provided a pretext for repressive governments to intensify pressure on independent media. It is exactly in that kind of hostile environment that the exercise of freedom of expression, especially by members of the press, becomes even more crucial in alerting the public to abuses and corruption and in countering dangerous misinformation and disinformation. We call on all governments to ensure media safety and protect journalists’ ability to do their jobs without fear of violence, threats, or unjust detention,” he said.

Blinken further expressed concern with the governments’ increased efforts to deprive the public of information and knowledge by controlling Internet access and censoring content, including through the widespread use of network restrictions – some as long as 18 months – that make it impossible for journalists to conduct independent reporting.

He noted that the governments must not shut down, block, throttle, censor, or filter services, as these actions undermine and unduly restrict the rights of peaceful assembly and freedoms of association and expression, disrupt access to essential services, and negatively impact the economy.

“The United States condemns the use of partial or complete government-imposed Internet shutdowns, among other tactics, to prevent the exercise of freedom of expression online and restrict the ability of independent journalists to serve the public. We urge governments to investigate and seek accountability for all crimes against journalists and media workers,” he remarked.

“The United States is committed to working in partnership with members of the media, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and other concerned governments to support access to information and defend freedom of expression and the brave journalists who face intimidation, harassment, arrest, and violence in exercising their rights,” Blinken added. (ANI) 

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