May 3rd: World Press Freedom Day

“Freedom of the press is not just important to democracy, it is democracy.”
– Walter Cronkite

World Press Freedom Day promotes the belief that freedom of the press and freedom of speech provide a basis for mutual understanding and sustainable peace. “It serves as an occasion to inform citizens of violations of press freedom – a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended, and closed down, while journalists, editors, and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered.”( And we know, we don’t have to travel to the other side of the earth to experience the oppression of journalism. Only recently, we witnessed what happens with freedom of the press and speech during war. How people were arrested for expressing their opinion and demonstrating on the street. How news agencies were shut down or used for propaganda. And, to be honest, from a completely neutral perspective, this is quite logical when fighting a war. It only makes sense to curtail the very rights democracy is built on: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of movement. Allowing those would hinder a tactical approach because information plays a vital role in the war because the success of the next move depends upon what the enemy knows or doesn’t know. The thing is, just because something is logical under certain circumstances, it isn’t necessarily right, especially when the circumstances themselves are so incredibly condemnable. I’m sure many of you were quite confused as well as to which of the news reports to believe since biased or even false reporting was used for propaganda. And it makes me sad and frustrated and feel helpless that democracy and freedom of speech are the first to die in war.

However, I was pretty surprised last week when I learned that the UK is planning to update its Official Secrets Act in a way that, many journalists would say, restricts the press freedom because it creates a chilling effect for journalists and their sources. Basically, it concerns anyone who discloses or spreads secret information. The Home Office claims that the balance between “serious harm” and freedom of the press needs to be found. “It added that officials and journalists are ‘rarely if ever’ in a position to compare the public interest against the potential damage of publication” (BBC Official Secrets Act). I find this strange because I feel this sounds like the job description of a journalist, this seems to be the reason why the press is also called the fourth estate. I don’t want to dive all too deep into this subject here, also because it goes slightly beyond my field of expertise, but if you’re interested have a listen to the corresponding panel of this year’s Festival of Debate Official Secrecy: How Government Plans Threaten Journalists & Whistleblowers.

Last but not least, a few literature or media suggestions:

Of course, George Orwell’s 1984: here even the freedom of thought is abolished. Need I say more?

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood: It focuses on an enclosed thoroughly regulated system also including illegal and ethically condemnable activities, information is smuggled out and leaked to the press. It might not be the main point of the novel, but still an important aspect.

Permanent Record by Edward Snowden: Since whistleblowing and journalism are closely intertwined, this is a great and valuable book that also gives insights in a process of disclosing secret information.

And believe it or not, Bibi Blocksberg and Benjamin Blümchen: Although they are mainly in German, they serve as a perfect example for explaining press freedom and the role of the press in general to children. It may also be used with older students since it’s unconventional, funny, and very accessible. On a very easy level, it shows the mayor as head of town/government/regime constantly acting selfishly and arbitrarily, more than once upsetting the citizens, and Karla Kolumna the fair and diplomatic reporter keeping him at bay.

Of course, I’m always interested in and open to new suggestions!
Have a wonderful day and care for your freedom of speech by caring for the freedom of speech of others!


“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”
– Edward Snowden

How often do you use Google per day? What do you upload on Instagram, Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, and the like? Do you use any voice assistants? How many jokes and sarcastic comments do you exchange with your friends that could be misunderstood taken out of context? What about pictures of any kind of precarious situations?

I recently started reading some of Margaret Atwood’s works. Although I was interested in dystopian literature and the surveillance aspect before, her books got me thinking even more about privacy as a human right, but even more so as a privilege. The Handmaid’s Tale has gained popularity since the series was launched which also experienced hype. However, it is quite different from the book and I feel the surveillance part isn’t dealt with as nicely as in the book. Atwood started writing the novel during a visit to West Berlin in 1984 through which she experienced the GDR system which definitely shows in the book. And even though mass surveillance media wasn’t a real thing back then, the effect of a lack of privacy on a human being is terrifying as it is equated with a lack or loss of control over one’s life. The Heart Goes Last is another novel worth reading regarding this delicate topic. Who could imagine right now, in our soft cozy living circumstances, giving up privacy in order to gain safety? Giving up privacy because it’s the most convenient thing to do? This is basically what happens in The Heart Goes Last and the change of human behaviour is interesting yet shocking. How would you change if you knew, you were monitored in some way or another all the time? Would you speak about everything as freely as you do now?

Don’t get me wrong, some of the above-mentioned I’m guilty of, too. I am, however, always a little surprised by the vast number of people using the “I have nothing to hide”-argument. I find that hard to believe, to be honest. Or would you give away private information to random people, people you just met, friends, family? Don’t you carefully pick the personal information you’re giving to someone depending on who you’re dealing with? Because I know, I don’t need to have any secrets in order to want privacy. Anyways, it’s not my place to lecture anyone here right now but if you are interested in seven reasons why “I have nothing to hide” might not be a valid point, have a read through the article on the amnesty website. Forbes also published a piece about why it is so incredibly important and how to care about online privacy. What’s probably most important is to reflect on one’s own actions and start rethinking. It’s not necessary to change everything and get super paranoid, just be aware! For I think it’s often not so much that you don’t care but that diving into this abysmal rabbit hole is hugely inconvenient and, let’s be honest, freaking creepy. Nevertheless, I promise, it’s a step worth taking!