MANILA, Philippines – Whistleblower and President of the Freedom of the Press Foundation Edward Snowden talked about the rolling back of freedoms under pandemic emergency powers, and the role of journalists and journalism in these particularly challenging times.
“Whether you’re a journalist, whether you’re an ordinary person, the world is facing an extraordinary slate of threats on basically every axis of progress,” Snowden said in this interview with Rappler’s Maria Ressa, part of a series published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) to commemorate the launch of the 2020 World Press Freedom Index on World Press Freedom Day.
According to Snowden, although quality journalism is especially critical during a crisis, it is also during these times that a skeptical press faces the greatest risks. (Rappler Talk: Joseph Stiglitz on press freedom in a ‘mafia market’)
“When we are making it more difficult to do journalism, when we are making it more difficult to gather, analyze, disseminate, publish meaningful information – information that is critical to the public… What we are going to find very rapidly is we’re not going to have access to information precisely at the moments when we need it the most,” he said.
Snowden warned against letting social media and technology companies share in journalism’s information gatekeeping role, particularly because of their propensity to acquiesce and even collaborate with government abuses and violations of privacy.
He also stressed the need for global legal reforms in privacy law, which will empower users and consumers to take ownership of their data.
“There is no universally recognized ownership right of data about you,” said Snowden. “Data that is created about you, data that’s held about you, data that’s processed about you – they say it’s not yours. And I think that’s incorrect.”
Despite the bleak picture of politics and journalism today, Snowden believes change and progress are possible – but only if individuals persist through cynicism and disempowerment.
“Reform only occurs if it is pushed upon institutions,” he said. “It is something that is willed into existence by a collective civil ideal, and there is no class in the world that is more capable of developing that kind of popular consensus than journalists.”
Watch Snowden’s full interview here. – Rappler.com