On May 3rd, we observe World Press Freedom Day to raise awareness of the importance of the unhindered flow of information to the public, and the critical role of media workers.It is a sobering reminder that in too many countries around the globe, media workers, including journalists, editors, and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained, and even murdered for simply doing their work, and publications are censored, fined, suspended and shut down.
It is no coincidence that the less democratic and more authoritarian a country’s government is, the harder it works to suppress the free flow of information. That’s because a free and unhindered press is often the only institution that can effectively and consistently expose government deception and corruption, and keep the public informed. Journalists keep the government and the powerbrokers honest. Indeed, a free and democratic society cannot exist without a free and independent press. A free press provides citizens with access to knowledge and information, thus safeguarding political systems based on the will of the people.
This year’s theme, “Keeping Power In Check,” highlights the importance of creating and maintaining a legal environment that supports press freedom, and the role an independent judiciary plays in ensuring protections for press freedom and guaranteeing the prosecution of crimes against journalists.
Indeed, if the press is to do its job--that is, facilitate the unhindered flow of information that keeps the citizenry informed--certain conditions must be met. These include: a legal environment that allows for open and pluralistic media; political will to support that sector; rule of law to protect it including laws safeguarding freedom of expression, online and offline; media professionals adhering to the highest ethical and professional standards; and a news readership capable of holding them to these standards.
On World Press Freedom Day, we show our support for media in danger of being censored or shut down, and remember those journalists who lost their lives while exercising their profession. And we call on all countries to support press freedom – both offline and online - and to investigate and prosecute all crimes against journalists.