Free media for democracy and good governance

Newspaper kiosk in Colombo, Sri Lanka
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Every country needs free, independent media if a well-informed, critically minded and vigilant civil society is to develop and all groups in society are to be able to participate in political decision-making processes. Freedom of opinion and unrestricted access to information are cornerstones of a functioning democracy and an absolute necessity for long-term development.

New opportunities arising from the digital revolution

Hardly any other area has felt the impact of the digital revolution as strongly as the media sector. Business models, job roles and the pace of the news have changed – in some cases radically. With this revolution also come redefined roles as people contribute actively to public debate through social networks, forums and blogs rather than merely consuming media passively.

However, the internet and digital technologies can only add value if mechanisms are in place to guarantee that ideas and information can be shared openly and freely. Where censorship, inflammatory propaganda and surveillance dominate, the result is stunted participation and innovation.  Consequently, German development policy seeks to strengthen freedom of opinion and access to information – particularly in the digital world.

The global situation regarding freedom of opinion and freedom of the press

According to the "Freedom of the press 2016" report published by non-governmental organisation Freedom House, working conditions for journalists deteriorated significantly in 2015. There are increasing restrictions on the free flow of information due to such factors as new security legislation. In many countries, those who work for the media are subject to intimidation and threats or even risk losing their lives.

The report’s findings show that the global situation with regard to freedom of the press is worse now than it has been for the past twelve years. Only 13 per cent of the world’s population live in countries with reliable political reporting, guaranteed safety for journalists, minimum governmental influence on media and no pressure on the media from the courts or industry. 41 per cent live in countries with restricted freedom of the press and 46 per cent in countries ranked by Freedom House as "not free".

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