World Press Freedom Day is being observed today with journalists making a resolve to keep pursuing the mission to know and inform others.
Happy World Press Freedom Day! Freedom of the press and commitment of the media to good journalism are key pillars of democracy and freedom of speech. #WorldPressFreedomDay
UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay in her message said it was essential to “guarantee freedom of opinion through the free exchange of ideas and information, based on factual truths.”
She said societies which value a free press, needed to constantly vigilant.
“We must act together to protect the freedom of expression and safety of journalists”.
“A free media is a prerequisite” for the proper functioning of democracies,” she said, adding, “Independent journalism provides an opportunity to present facts to citizens and to form an opinion. Press freedom guarantees transparent societies where everyone can access information”.
The United Nation General Assembly declared May 3 as World Press Freedom Day in 1991 to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right of freedom of expression.
The theme for this year’s World Press Freedom Day is “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation” which discusses current challenges faced by media in elections, along with the media’s potential in supporting peace and reconciliation processes.
This year celebration states, “Today, the contribution of free, pluralistic, independent and safe journalism to democracy is under unprecedented stress. Also, election outcomes and their aftermath are critically affected by political discourse and communications, including the role of the media in relation to the polling process.”
It further reads, “Many societies have falling trust in established political parties and in news outlets themselves. This is often accompanied by a polarising political discourse that threatens peaceful elections as well as press freedom.”
The concept aligns with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal where freedom of expression and safety of journalists are protected; the media can play a vital role in preventing conflict and in supporting peaceful democratic processes.
According to a report published by the International Federation of Journalists, 18 journalists have already been killed in 2019.
In his message on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres underscored the need for free press disseminating reliable information to maintain peace and justice, especially during elections as “facts, not falsehoods” should guide the people while choosing their representatives.
Noting that civic space has been shrinking worldwide at an alarming rate, Guterres said that he is “deeply troubled” by the growing number of attacks against journalists and the culture of impunity.
“No democracy is complete without access to transparent and reliable information,” he said, describing unfettered journalism as “the cornerstone for building fair and impartial institutions, holding leaders accountable and speaking truth to power.”
“Facts, not falsehoods, should guide people as they choose their representatives”, the UN chief said, noting that “while technology has transformed the ways in which we receive and share information, sometimes it is used to mislead public opinion or to fuel violence and hatred.”
According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), almost 100 journalists were killed going about their work in 2018, with hundreds imprisoned.
A total of 1,307 journalists were killed between 1994 and last year.
Guterres said he was “deeply troubled by the growing number of attacks and the culture of impunity…When media workers are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price.”