50 Percent of The World’s Population To Be Online By End Of 2018 – WPFD 2018 Key Facts

“For the first time in human history, by the end of this very year, 50% of the world will be online.” These were the words of the Senior Policy Manager for Africa at the World Wide Web Foundation, Nnenna Nwakanma while delivering the keynote address at the opening of the World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) celebration in Accra, Ghana.

The web has opened up journalism to new writers, editors and outlets. And the potential audience for journalism has grown as more people become connected, consuming more media than ever before. In 1991, at the time UNESCO was hosting African journalists in Windhoek, the internet was still a guess to many.

“Whether we prefer to see ourselves as Digital or analogue, irrespective of whether our medium is an online platform or paper, whether we are sharing by physical hand-over or by clicking a button, I can say one thing:  that the  people from the Internet and people from  the press share the same basic principles. We want Freedom, Independence, Safety, Plurality and diversity, Gender balance and social justice, Freedom of information, of knowledge and of disseminating the benefits of information and knowledge, Independence from political, religious, traditional, societal or corporate pressure, safety to go about our daily work and live freely as law-abiding citizens,” she expatiated.

There is a plethora of new writers, new editors, new tools, new outlets and new readers.

There are great opportunities, opportunities to connect more, opportunities to disseminate and opportunities to do more.

But this window of opportunity could close if we do not fight to keep information flowing and the web free and open for the next 50%. Traditional media, new media, online platforms and digital rights face the same threats.

The Press faces increasing government crackdown on free expression, and increasingly draconian laws shrinking civic space in Malaysia, in Myanmar and not too far from here.

Both traditional and online media face the threat of Fake/false news driven in part by the advertising incentive to write clickbait. It is only when information is credible and reliable that papers and platforms will only truly empower people.

Both media are also challenged by the unreached and unconnected populations who become increasingly marginalised and unable to exercise their right to access information and hold the powers to be accountable.

“Our basics are right. Our opportunities are great but our threats are also real.  However we should not allow our fears to overcome us.”

Governments must help guarantee access to information for everyone.  This means strong government open data, in conformity with the International Open Data Charter, Freedom Of Information (FOI) laws, and affordable internet access are key.

Governments must stop internet shutdowns – shutting down the internet is sledgehammer censorship of all public debate and journalism at once. When you shut down the Internet, you tell us that you are not a government to be trusted. You scare away investment and investor, and you mobilize citizens, to vote against you. It is time to move beyond Military Democracy.

Social media and search platforms must be designed to better enable and encourage quality journalism to flourish, changing the way the ad-based model incentivise clickbait and fake news.

To the judiciary, the most important work of the judiciary is building trust in the justice system. We have laws. Offline laws are mostly sufficient for deviant behaviour online. Rights offline are valid online, laws offline are valid online.

“For the three days that we are gathered in Ghana, let us strive to move beyond our fears.  Let us deconstruct the walls that exist between men and women, older and younger, traditional and digital, platform and paper, offline and online. With the stones from these walls, we can build bridges.” Nnenna concluded

World Press Freedom Day is celebrated annually on May 3. UNESCO is leading the 25th celebration this year. The main event, jointly organized by UNESCO and the Government of the Republic of Ghana, is happening in Accra, Ghana from 2 – 4 May. This year’s global theme is ‘Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law’, and will cover issues of media and the transparency of the political process, the independence and media literacy of the judicial system, and the accountability of state institutions towards the public.

Source: Key Note Address by Nnenna Nwakanma – 2nd May 2018

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