The United States joins the international community in celebrating the importance of press freedom. “Information and knowledge are powerful tools, and a free and independent press is the core institution connecting publics to the information they need,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in his statement commemorating World Press Freedom Day. That’s why the United States advocates for press freedom online and offline, and for the safety of journalists worldwide.
Freedom of expression is foundational to democratic societies. Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, freedom of expression includes the right of all individuals “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
“But the outlook for the rights of journalists today is harrowing,” said Secretary Blinken.
That’s one reason the U.S. announced, in response to the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the “Khashoggi Ban” — to help deter threatening behavior against the media. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the number of reporters jailed for their work in 2020 reached the highest level since the organization began keeping track, with the People’s Republic of China, Turkey, and Egypt imprisoning the most reporters last year. In Russia, authorities continue to restrict independent reporting, including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic provided a pretext for repressive governments to intensify pressure on independent media. Secretary Blinken “call[ed] on all governments to ensure media safety and protect journalists’ ability to do their jobs without fear of violence, threats, or unjust detention. The United States urges governments to investigate and seek accountability for all crimes against journalists.
In an increasingly digital world, press freedom and the free flow of information also require Internet freedom. Secretary Blinken said the U.S. is “concerned by governments’ increased efforts to deprive the public of information and knowledge by controlling Internet access and censoring content, including through the widespread use of network restrictions. Governments must not shut down, block, throttle, censor, or filter services, as these actions undermine and unduly restrict the rights of peaceful assembly and freedoms of association and expression, disrupt access to essential services, and negatively impact the economy.”
The United States is committed to working in partnership with members of the media, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and governments to support access to information and defend freedom of expression and the journalists who face intimidation, harassment, arrest, and violence in exercising their rights.