May 3rd is Press Freedom Day, reminding us that a free and independent press is essential to democracy.
May 3rd is Press Freedom Day, reminding us that a free and independent press is essential to democracy. Despots rule with greatest ease where the media are muzzled or controlled by the government, and where journalistic activity is restricted or sanctioned for publishing uncomfortable truths.
That is because a free and unhindered press is the only institution that can effectively and consistently expose government deception and keep the public informed. Journalists keep the government and the powerbrokers honest.
Indeed, there is a clear relationship between freedom of the press and public accountability, since free media serve the governed rather than the government.
“Consider the crisis that is occupying much of our attention today – Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. And consider what preceded it and continues unabated: A systematic campaign by the Russian government to bring newspapers, television and radio stations, and social networks under its control, to silence dissenting voices and control the information the Russian people receive,” said Tom Malinowski, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, speaking at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.
“By creating a closed information space within Russia, the Kremlin has thus been free to act without fear of domestic opposition or constraint.”
But in too many countries, journalists perform their jobs at great personal risk. They face harassment, violence, kidnapping, intimidation, even death as they work to shine the light on malfeasance and corruption in both the public and private sectors.
It is the policy of the United States to defend freedom of the media wherever it is threatened, be the format print or electronic.
“We will stand up for journalists and writers, essayists and editors, bloggers and broadcasters, photographers and videographers, Tweeps and Tumblers, to seek out the truth and to tell us what they find and what they think, without censorship or fear of retribution,” said Assistant Secretary
“We do so because it is right. We do so because the freedom of the press is guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We also do so because the world in which we want to live depends on it.”