Join us for Season 5 of The Backstory: A Media Freedom Podcast as we explore the state of press freedom around the world. We speak to journalists, editors and media experts from the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and the MENA region about the challenges facing the industry. We also hear possible solutions to these challenges as well as how new technologies, like artificial intelligence, are changing the future of news.

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The Americas

The United States has long been held up as a model for press freedom worldwide. But increasing polarization and the rise in populist politics are challenging this assumption. Instances of government officials undermining the media and the country’s democratic institutions make it increasingly difficult for journalists to do their jobs. Farther south, governments have been using laws to arrest and detain journalists who ask too many questions, while criminals who target journalists go unpunished. In this episode of The Backstory, we’ll take a close look at the US, Guatemala and Mexico, while also identifying trends that are spreading regionally.


Lauren Chooljian, radio journalist for New Hampshire public radio in the United States

Joel Simon, founding director of the Journalism Protection Initiative at The City University of New York, in the United States

José Carlos Zamora, son of José Rubén Zamora, the founder and director of Guatemala’s El Periodico newspaper, who has been in prison since mid-2022.

Martha Ramos, veteran journalist and chief editorial officer for Organización Editorial Mexicana, Mexico’s largest print media company


The October 2023 elections in Poland marked a turning point for media freedom, when the far-right Law and Justice party were pushed out of power after nearly a decade of rule and media control. But in other Eastern European countries, governments still exert power over the news industry, and throughout Europe, the rise of populism and the far-right is posing significant challenges to press freedom. In this episode of The Backstory, we’ll be in Europe, looking at how Poland, Norway and the UK are navigating current challenges, and the impact that the war in Ukraine is having on press freedom.


Joanna Krawczyk, deputy managing director of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, based in Warsaw, Poland

Helje Solberg, news director at public broadcaster NRK in Norway

Kamal Ahmed, president of the Society of Editors in the UK, and editor-in-chief and co-founder of The News Movement

Gavin O’Reilly, former president of WAN-IFRA; publisher and executive chair of the UK-based The New European


Asia is a vast region with extensive news markets and huge audiences, providing a plethora of opportunities for media production and consumption. But the continent is also home to a range of governing styles, from democracies to authoritarian dictatorships, some of which regularly crack down on press freedom. In this episode of The Backstory, we’ll hear from media professionals in Indonesia, India and Thailand on the specific challenges facing the news industry, as well as the role of China’s influence in the region.


Siddarth Vardarajan, editor-in-chief of online media outlet The Wire in India

Sui Lee Wee, Southeast Asia bureau chief for the New York Times

Luviana Ariyanti, veteran journalist and co-founder of alternative women’s media,, in Indonesia

Ritu Kapur, co-founder and managing director of digital media platform The Quint in India


Africa has made strides towards more press freedom, with countries like Zimbabwe and Malawi recently passing laws to protect free speech or access to information. But while this is a positive development for journalism, there have also been clawbacks” – a reversal in access. In addition, journalists on the continent continue to self-censor their work in the face of government pressure and intervention, and have struggled to gain public trust. In this episode of The Backstory, we explore some of the trends common across Africa, with a particular focus on Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa.


Nqaba Matshazi, campaign coordinator for the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)

Susan Makore, director for Advisory and Insights within WAN-IFRA’s Women in News programme and commissioner for the Zimbabwe Media Commission

John Allen Namu, investigative journalist and co-founder of Africa Uncensored, based in Nairobi, Kenya

Nwabisa Makunga, editor of the Sowetan newspaper in Johannesburg, South Africa


Journalists working in the MENA region face some of the biggest challenges to the profession anywhere in the world. The area has seen great upheaval in recent years, with revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, and conflicts that have engulfed the region, like the current war in Gaza. But journalists remain dedicated to promoting the truth, working both pragmatically and creatively to ensure that their stories reach the rest of the world. In this episode of The Backstory, we dip into the immense challenges facing the media industry in the Middle East and North Africa.


Malek Khadhraoui, director of Tunisian investigative magazine Inkyfada 

Ayman Mhanna, executive director of the Samir Kassir Foundation’s SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom in Beirut, Lebanon

Diana Moukalled, veteran Lebanese journalist and founder of media platform Daraj

Rasha Qandeel, former BBC journalist and professor at the American University in Cairo, Egypt

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