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Supporting Media Freedom

A newspaper and magazine distribution center in New Delhi, India. (file)
A newspaper and magazine distribution center in New Delhi, India. (file)

May 3 is the 20th World Press Freedom Day.

May 3 is the 20th World Press Freedom Day. The United States is committed to drawing attention to media repression and supporting press freedom worldwide. “Information is the moral equivalent of oxygen,” U.S. Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine told a gathering of reporters and others recently.

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Because of their work, nearly 600 journalists have been murdered with impunity since 1992 and 250 currently languish in the world’s prisons according the Committee to Protect Journalists. “We must be vigilant,” said Under Secretary Sonenshine:

“Today we urge all people, members of news organizations, civil society, think tank institutions, political leaders, scholars, and citizens of every faith and ethnicity to call for accountability. Demand that governments enforce human rights that protect journalists and their fundamental freedoms - Shine a light on longstanding and emerging repressive restrictions on and threats to freedom of expression, whether they are through traditional media or online."

Under Secretary Sonenshine noted that while daunting, the news is not all bad. Last summer Turkey enacted a Third Judicial Reform Package, as a result of which the publication of approximately 400 books was no longer prohibited. Turkey’s parliament recently enacted the Fourth Judicial Reform Package which loosened some restrictions on the freedom of expression. Turkey plans to continue this momentum with Fifth and Sixth Judicial Reform packages. In Burma, privately owned daily newspapers have returned for the first time since the 1960s.

The U.S. government funds programs to provide media organizations and journalists with tools to enable them to work effectively and will soon support safety training facilities in El Salvador, Nairobi, and Georgia for journalists in the region. Exchanges and programs for visiting journalists from around the world continue and the U.S. is committed to supporting technological innovations that expand the space for freedom of expression.

The U.S. Department of State works to engage governments worldwide through bilateral and multilateral forums, supports UN resolutions on freedom of expression, and works with non-governmental organizations and civil society. Foreign assistance bolsters independent media organizations on the ground.

“We call upon the international community to join us,” said Under Secretary Sonenshine, “In addressing undue restrictions, attacks, threats to press freedom worldwide, and not just during this campaign … not just on World Press Freedom Day, but every day.”