Is free speech 100% free?
Other answers have pointed out the stifling of free speech, but I think that's not a complete answer, as free speech is not totally unregulated, and therefore arguments can be made that your system merely streamlines the curation of free speech that already happens today (without accusations of dictatorship).
- Freedom of speech entails not curtailing the expression of opinions. Incorrect facts can get regulated, e.g. libel/slander laws.
- Opinions that provoke hatred or criminal action are not inherently excused by freedom of speech on public platforms. Therefore, some newspaper articles are already being regulated right now.
- Statements that provoke panic (yelling fire in a crowded theatre) are similarly regulated beyond just being free speech.
- Newspapers are free to choose what they publish and what they don't, and therefore they can voluntarily opt in to your system. This may not cover your entire use case but it does mean your approach could be valid on a voluntary basis.
- You seem to not actually try to silence those you disagree with, but rather publishing your own separate opinion of those people. However, there's a difference in claiming that this is your intention, and actually doing so. It's a valid argument but whether it's true remains to be seen.
So for the purpose of this answer, I assume your curation will reasonably curate media articles according to the modern zeitgeist, i.e. in a way that is little to no different from e.g. the curation of hate speech.
Further arguments can be made that you are able to make things look better than they in reality are; but that's besides the point. You will be judged by public perception, and this answer presupposes that your curation's public perception is generally considered to be positive (or at least non-negative).
If public perception is negative, then it will obviously be judged negatively, and no further reasoning is needed.
Good vs evil
Whenever you try and sandbox such an approach, consider it from both sides:
- You mean well, the neighbor doesn't.
- You don't mean well, the neighbor does.
Any argument that makes your approach come out as good in the first example ("I can stop their bad influence on my legitimate democracy"), will make your approach come out as evil in the second example ("I can stop anyone from diminishing my dictatorship").
Your approach, or any other approach to curtail "bad" information, inherently relies on the expectation of a universally measurable and provable good/evil scale. Such a scale does not exist globally. It exists subjectively for each and every one of us, but my scale doesn't necessarily match up to yours.
Since it's subjective, even though you think you're being benevolent, others (with a different subjective scale) are liable to disagree. No matter how much you argue your own viewpoint, those others will not agree with you and will call you malevolent instead.
I.e. how would the international community perceive my step? Would I be considered a dictator?
Yes. While it's impossible to truly objectively separate valid criticism of a dictator from invalid criticism of a legitimate government; your governmental actions will predominantly be judged by the worst case scenario, which is that of a dictatorship.
On principle alone, you are likely to be judged as a dictator.
What would the impact of imposing a rating system for journalism on my country's international relations?
Think of it like this: speeders can cause accidents, though not all speeders inherently do cause them. Speeding tickets try to curtail accidents. But speeding tickets are given to all who speed, not just speeders who end up causing accidents.
Similarly, your approach isn't proof of dictatorship, but it can further a dictatorial regime. International condemnation tries to curtail dictatorial regimes. International condemnation will come to all who curtail the media in their favor, not just those who curtail the media to further their actual dictatorial regime.
When you are judged to be a dictator, which is what's going to happen in this case, then you will receive international condemnation.
However, the consequences of international condemnation do not amount to much unless you are affected by what people think of you. As a clear example, the world mostly agrees that North Korea is a dictatorship and condemns them as such.
North Korea's international relations are low, but since they don't care about it, it's not really a problem for them.
Trying to regulate it anyway
This is pure logic: in order to regulate X, one must first be able to accurately and objectively measure X. The inability to measure X leads to the inability to fairly regulate X.
An innocuous example here is Belgian traffic law regarding lowering the speed limit on highways when it rains. The proposal has been accepted, on the condition that the government first defines a reasonable way to distinguish a rainy situation from a normal situation.
For months now, no one has been able to come up with a metric that fits well for situations where lowering the speed would actually make a meaningful difference in safety.
Your situation is the same in principle. The goal makes sense (preventing traffic accidents in rainy conditions, preventing misinformation), but it relies on a metric you haven't actually defined (rainy conditions, misinformation).
If you enforce a bad metric, then any bad measurement of that metric (i.e. false positives or false negatives) is directly used to judge your approach by itself.
If you enforce a good metric, then you may actually have found a way to counter the condemnation you get from being judged as a dictatorial regime.
Such a "good" metric would in principle be no different from e.g. policing hate speech, which in most western countries is commonly accepted to be a good thing, and not used as proof of a dictatorial regime.
- Free speech regulation is already a thing, so your approach is nothing new even by modern non-dictatorial standards - contingent on the exact curation you intend to implement and how far removed it is from currently accepted free speech regulation, of course.
- If you don't care about international relations have an adequate national defense, then how your media curation is perceived is moot as international repercussions don't really affect you.
- Your suggested system is inherently dictatorial and will be judged and condemned as such.
- If your curation is viewed positively by those whose opinion you care about, and it reasonably prevents false negatives and false positives, then you're not going to find much meaningful opposition.
- An exceedingly great metric can counter the claims of dictatorialism, since dictatorialism is generally moot when the actions takes are considered to be for the general good.