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Media and Freedom of Expression

“Watchdogs,” “gatekeepers,” or the “Fourth Estate”, whatever we choose to call it, a free media is the indispensable guardian of liberal democracy. But how does this freedom fare in today’s world? What we see is a picture with some light, but many shadows, because authoritarian rulers around the globe have come to understand the formula “no democracy without a free press” and are suppressing critical voices. Find more on this, but also on some encouraging examples of innovative news outlets from Zimbabwe to the Middle East, in this issue of International Reports.

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Media and Freedom of Expression

  • Editorial

    “The press must have the freedom to say anything so that certain people do not have the freedom to do anything.” This was expressed by the French statesman, diplomat, and man of letters Alain Peyrefitte. “Watchdogs”, “gatekeepers”, or the “Fourth Estate”, whatever we choose to call it, a free media is the indispensable guardian of liberal democracy.

    by Gerhard Wahlers

  • The Waning of the Light

    Freedom of the Press in 2021

    Freedom of the press is an essential pillar of functioning democracies. When this pillar crumbles, it is usually due to an erosion of the whole democratic edifice, while also contributing to this ongoing decay. For many years, press freedom has been under pressure around the globe – yet, there are still grounds for optimism. The ­COVID-19 pandemic has helped to raise people’s awareness of the importance of independent, quality-oriented media.

    by Katharina Naumann

  • On Public Discourse in the Digital Sphere

    Supporting Freedom of Expression through a Graduated Approach to Regulating Disinformation

    Disinformation – we have all been in contact with it at one time or another, even if we weren’t aware of it. A forsa survey for Safer Internet Day 2021 reveals that 83 per cent of young internet users aged 14 to 24 have encountered fake news on social media. But what do we mean when we talk about disinformation and fake news? How much can be tolerated by a democracy before it is described as unstable? And at what point does regulation become necessary to protect this democracy and its vital process of opinion formation?

    by Tobias Schmid, Daphne Wolter

  • Greyscales

    Ukraine’s Challenging Task in Combatting Disinformation while Protecting Freedom of Expression

    After years of hybrid warfare, the Kyiv government is cracking down on pro-Russian media, whose owners it accuses of supporting the “People’s Republics” in the east of the country. But its decision-making process is raising questions. How can Ukraine effectively defend itself against disinformation campaigns without setting dangerous precedents or disproportionately restricting freedom of expression?

    by Toni Michel

  • Journalism in Unstable Democracies

    Restrictions on Press Freedom in Argentina

    The changes facing journalism around the globe are particularly pronounced in countries with weak economies and flawed democracies. The example of Argentina illustrates the challenges facing journalism in an environment of restricted press freedom and tensions between political power and the media.

    by Olaf Jacob, Adriana Amado

  • Journalists under Pressure

    Is Freedom of Expression at Risk in Mexico?

    Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the whole of the Americas for journalists. In addition to threats from organised crime groups and cartels, representatives of the press are increasingly exposed to state repression when they critically report on the government of the incumbent Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his party.

    by Hans-Hartwig Blomeier, Luis Téllez

  • Under Pressure

    Freedom of Speech and Press in India

    In its latest annual report, Reporters Without Borders describes the situation for freedom of press in India as “difficult”. The country is ranked 142 out of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index. India is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists; in recent years many press representatives have lost their lives in the course of their work. Indian officials claim this ranking to be a reflection of Western bias. Yet freedom of press continues to be curtailed, journalists are arrested for expressing an opinion, and attempts are made to control narratives on social media.

    by Peter Rimmele

  • Everything Has Changed

    Two African Media Houses Creatively Master the Pandemic

    While willingness to pay for good journalism has long been considered low among African media consumers, appreciation for reliable information has recently increased noticeably in the course of the ­COVID-19 pandemic. Anyone prepared to be innovative and to focus on quality can succeed even in these difficult times, as 263Chat from Zimbabwe and the pan-African project The Continent impressively demonstrate.

    by Christoph Plate, David Mbae

  • Between Awakening and Repression

    The Arab Media Landscape in Transition

    Ten years after the uprisings of the Arab Spring, the media landscape in the Middle East and North Africa is in a state of radical transition. Mass media in countries like Tunisia and Sudan, which were once loyal to the state in their reporting, now report in a more balanced manner. At the same time, the rich Gulf states and Egypt in particular are investing in their state media. However, a whole range of private online formats, such as blogs and podcasts, are attempting to defy the dominance of state media and to report objectively for the people in the region.

    by Ulf Laessing

  • The Public Opinion of Judges

    Between Freedom of Expression and the ­Judicial Duty of Independence

    In recent years, judicial independence has increasingly been the subject of court decisions. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) recently sought to draw a line regarding the freedom of expression of judges. In Southeast Europe, ­numerous disciplinary actions have been initiated against judges as a result of expressions of opinion on social media. Have the dignitaries in these cases really failed to fulfil their judicial duty of independence, or is this increasingly becoming an instrumentalised political issue?

    by Ferdinand Alexander Gehringer, Hartmut Rank, Mahir Muharemović, Stanislav Splavnic

Other Topics

  • Focussing on the Economy

    The Opportunities and Challenges of Germany’s Africa Policy

    No German head of government has made a stronger, more constructive, and more sustained commitment to our neighbouring continent than Angela Merkel. The next German government would do well to continue along this path and to place Africa even more firmly at the centre of its policies. The positive steps taken in recent years should be used as a springboard for taking our relations with African partners to a whole new level.

    by Christoph Kannengießer

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About this series

International Reports (IR) is the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung's periodical on international politics. It offers political analyses by our experts in Berlin and from more than 100 offices across all regions of the world. Contributions by named authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editorial team.

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Dr. Gerhard Wahlers



Benjamin Gaul

Benjamin Gaul

Head of the Department International Reports and Communication +49 30 26996 3584

Dr. Sören Soika


Editor-in-Chief International Reports (Ai) +49 30 26996 3388

Rana Taskoparan

Rana Taskoparan

Referentin Kommunikation und Vermarktung +49 30 26 996 3623

Fabian Wagener

Fabian Wagener

Desk Officer for Multimedia +49 30-26996-3943