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The week in corruption, 19 April 2019

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Transparency Int'l

The fragile freedom of the press

Since the arrest of Julian Assange last week, press freedom has become a hot topic once again. The polarising Wikileaks founder was arrested and charged with conspiracy to hack a United States government computer containing classified documents. While the indictment does not charge Assange for anything to do with publishing leaked documents, some organisations, journalists and academics fear that his arrest could set a dangerous precedent for press freedom.

Unfortunately, we are seeing an ongoing trend of attacks on the media and sometimes journalists themselves.

Just this week, a decision by Brazil’s Supreme Court (STF) clearly violated the freedom of the press and fundamental principles of democratic rule of law.

The court used a secret investigation to justify the censorship of a media article, labelling it “fake news” that threatened the STF and its members.

Unless the decision is immediately reversed, the STF risks setting a dangerous precedent, threatening civil liberties in the country.

Fake news is one of the greatest dangers to democracy today — not only because it spreads false information but also because the term is often used to discredit factually accurate reporting.

Anti-corruption activism relies strongly on trust in independent media outlets, as well as the use of social media as a means of communication, and fake news undermines this trust.

Citizens, activists and governments should take this seriously and consider strategies to guard against fake news and protect press freedom.

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