Freedom of the press plays a fundamental role in advancing and safeguarding democracy. Only 15 percent of the world's citizens, however, live in countries that enjoy a free press, according to a Freedom House Study.
Most authoritarian regimes create inhospitable environments for press freedom, where use of "licensing and regulatory frameworks...significantly limits independent broadcasting," said United States Congressman Adam Schiff of California’s 29th district at World Press Freedom Day.
"In addition to censoring traditional media, repressive governments around the world have intensified efforts to exert control over new means of communication, including satellite television, the internet and mobile telephones, as well as the news outlets that employ them."
Journalists who continue to report under these regimes are often at serious risk. At least 543 journalists have been killed since 1992, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
"Censorship, intimidation, imprisonments or murders of journalists violate not only the personal liberty of the journalists," said Representative Schiff, "but also the rights of broader society, which is denied access to ideas and information."
One way the United States responds to this type of oppression is by working across the United Nations system. In particular, the U.S. plays an active role in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which fosters media independence and pluralism by providing advisory services on media legislation; by making governments, parliamentarians, and other decision makers aware of the need to guarantee freedom of expression; and providing support and training environments where such resources are scarce.
The United States stands with UNESCO in the conviction that support to media institutions strengthens democracy and promotes respect for human rights, and it commends journalists around the world for the important role they play in the free exchange of ideas.