"There was a time when journalists believed the Internet would liberate information from the censorship and control associated with print media," observed Jamal Khashoggi, in what would turn out to be his final column for The Washington Post. "But these governments, whose very existence relies on the control of information, have aggressively blocked the Internet. They have also arrested local reporters and pressured advertisers to harm the revenue of specific publications."

Khashoggi, the US-based journalist whose alleged murder in Istanbul by a Saudi Arabian death squad has shocked the world, warned of the dire consequences the result when "a state-run narrative dominates the public psyche, and while many do not believe it, a large majority of the population falls victim to this false narrative."

The globally renowned journalist was writing about the circumstances in his homeland, and in other Arab states. But he could have been writing about much of the world, where freedom of expression, and the democratic promises that extend from it, are under murderous assault. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calculates that 57 journalists who were employed by media outlets (including six in the United States) have been killed so far this year, along with 10 citizen journalists and four media assistants. At the same time, 167 journalists, 150 citizen journalists, and 19 media assistants are imprisoned--including 28 Saudi Arabians.

These statistics are the stark evidence of a broader crisis that has gone global. "Political control of the media, subjugation of news and information to private interests, the growing influence of corporate actors who escape democratic control, online mass disinformation and the undermining of quality journalism--such are the dangers that threaten journalistic freedom, in addition to the direct threats to journalists themselves. Some of these dangers are unfortunately already familiar but other, newer, ones force us to devise new democratic guarantees--because democracy's survival is at stake, because democracy cannot survive without an informed, open and dynamic public debate," warn the leaders of a new Information and Democracy Commission, which has been established by RSF to address "the crisis of trust in democracies and the growing influence of despotic regimes [that] pose a major threat to freedoms, civil harmony and peace."