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October 19, 2020 — Covid-19, migrants, and the climate crisis apart, public interest media is today’s hot topic. In the USA, Hungary, and the Philippines – to cite just three countries – some politicians have labelled media outlets critical of their policies and actions “fake media” or “fake news”. Among others, Russia, Turkey and China openly censor and supress what might be called media dissent or media activism: holding governments, corporations, and their leaders to account.

Since the emergence of the communication rights movements in the 1980s, activists have advanced a vision of the right to communicate as a highly political enterprise. The main idea at the heart of the movement has always been that democratizing media and communication is a way to transform power structures in favour of the public interest and of people and communities whose concerns and stories are rarely seen and heard.

Public interest journalism addresses the needs of citizens in a democratic community. Journalism that serves the public interest acknowledges that citizens are able to comprehend the policies and decisions that affect them. It assumes they are capable of applying their experience and values to arguments presented to them and of acting in ways that can make a positive difference to the world around them.

Free Press and four allies have filed a lawsuit (27 August 2020) challenging an order against social media companies. The US District Court, Northern District of California, will hear a complaint against President Trump’s “Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship”, which targets online platforms with a range of official reprisals – including threats to their established legal immunity, investigation by government enforcement agencies, and the loss of significant government spending – for engaging in constitutionally protected speech, including combating misinformation online.

How can news organizations practice diversity and how can newsmakers contribute to overcoming division and exclusion? A digital panel session discussed these questions as part of German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle’s Global Media Forum 2020. It focused on the need for news organizations to promote diversity...

Media freedom is the freedom to protest. “Hong Kong has long been respected as a powerful global economic hub and lively political and democratic space, supported by a proud and strong independent media. Yet the imposition of the new national security law… has undermined fundamental rights and freedom of expression… and severely damages Hong Kong’s autonomy,” says a statement published by the International Federation of Journalists on 19 August 2020. It was signed by eight leading organisations supporting media freedom.

A new law in Tanzania tightens controls on cooperation between local and international media outlets. Under new regulations announced by the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority, which came into force on 10 August 2020, local media must now seek government permission to broadcast foreign content. They will be responsible for any perceived “offence” contained in that content.