Journalism under fire amid rise of ‘fake news’ and social media-driven echo chambers – UNESCO report

Across the world, journalism is under fire. While more individuals have access to content than ever before, the combination of political polarization and technological change has facilitated the rapid spread of hate speech, misogyny and unverified ‘fake news’, often leading to disproportionate restrictions on freedom of expression. In an ever-growing number of countries, journalists face physical and verbal attacks that threaten their ability to report news and information to the public.

In the face of such challenges, this new volume in the World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development series offers a critical analysis of new developments in media freedom, pluralism, independence and the safety of journalists.

With a special focus on gender equality in the media, this study provides a global perspective that serves as an essential resource for UNESCO Member States, international organizations, civil society groups, academia and individuals seeking to understand the changing global media landscape.

“Covering the period 2012 to 2017, this study not only maps emerging global trends – it makes an unequivocal call to action to counter new and persistent challenges,” stated Irina Bokova, Director-General of  UNESCO in the foreword of the report.

The report highlights such positive developments as civil society mobilizing to push for greater access to information, media houses cooperating with fact-checking services to push back against a torrent of disinformation, and more and more Governments adopting freedom of information laws.

In the digital age, the report says, women journalists are able to develop an online presence liberated from newsroom hierarchies, and citizen journalists and activists have access to modes of mass communication that were previously unthinkable.

The report, however, warned that “across the world, journalism is under fire,” citing the rise of ‘fake news’ stories that shroud the truth and muddy information, as well as social media algorithms that are contributing to the creation of virtual ‘echo chambers’ and exacerbating political polarization. Governments have shut down the internet, notably before elections. Journalists are under wide-ranging attack, facing rising violence.

Download the report World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development 

 

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