The Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) joins all those who today recognize World Press Freedom Day. As creators, interpreters and distributors of high quality information, our more than 450 members are united in the belief that a free and safe press is essential to support the unrestrained flow of ideas by word and image. A free and safe press empowers individual freedom, drives economic growth, combats authoritarianism online and off, gives voice to the voiceless and otherwise brings to our attention the critical stories, data and information that inform our world view and support social, economic and political progress.
Just last week, SIIA celebrated the outstanding work of B2B journalists and publishers at our 68th annual Neal Awards ceremony. We recognized stories ranging from in-depth coverage of cutting-edge innovations to the ever-unfolding effects of the pandemic across industries, to the broad impact of the global supply chain crisis, to critical examinations on racism and inequity and beyond. These honorees represent the critical importance of a free press particularly as we work to navigate this period of rising illiberalism and historic global challenges.
The threat to press freedom is real. Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a media watchdog group, finds a global decline in press freedom based on 87 questions focused on laws, self-censorship, media pluralism, independence and transparency, along with an assessment of attacks and arrests.
This year’s Press Freedom Day theme “Journalism Under Digital Siege” calls attention to the myriad ways in which surveillance and digitally mediated attacks endanger journalists and journalism. RSF reports 24 journalists have been killed this year to date and 461 are currently in prison. (Journalists are listed only if RSF has established that their death or imprisonment was linked to their journalistic activity.) Our great nation is not immune. Press Freedom Tracker for the United States shows that gag orders, prosecutions of journalists, and physical attacks and equipment damage are all on the rise, and access for journalism to courthouses and statehouses remains a challenge. The Digital Siege theme also references the critical need to strike a balance among legitimate security concerns, privacy and the need for law enforcement to have access to specific information, issues in which SIIA is intimately engaged.
Freedom is a continuum and is never guaranteed. SIIA will continue to stand up for policies that support press freedom and safety. And we will continue to celebrate the brilliant, quality journalism and publishing coming out of associations and industry that seeks to better our world.