Free Press “Cornerstone” of Democratic Societies, UN Says | World Press Freedom Day

In a message on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, celebrated annually on May 3, Secretary-General António Guterres stressed the importance of reliable, verified and accessible information.

“During the pandemic and other crises, including the climate emergency, journalists and media professionals are helping us navigate a rapidly changing and often overwhelming news landscape, while addressing inaccuracies and misunderstandings. dangerous lies, ”he said.

“Free and independent journalism is our best ally in the fight against disinformation and disinformation. “

Mr. Guterres also noted the personal risks journalists and media workers face, including restrictions, censorship, abuse, harassment, detention and even death, “just for doing their job”, and as the situation continues to worsen.

The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic has hit many media hard, threatening their very survival, he added.

“As budgets tighten, so does access to reliable information. Rumors, lies and extreme or conflicting opinions are pouring in to fill the void, ”the Secretary-General said, urging all governments to“ do everything in their power to support a free, independent and diverse media ”.

Contribute to the well-being of humanity

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, also underlined the importance of a free, uncensored and independent press as a “cornerstone of democratic societies”, conveying vital information, improving the public participation and enhancing accountability and respect for human rights.

“All over the world, people have increasingly taken to the streets to demand their economic and social rights, as well as an end to systemic discrimination and racism, impunity and corruption,” he said. she declared.

However, journalists fulfilling their fundamental role of covering these social protests have become targets, and many of them are victims of unnecessary and disproportionate use of force, arbitrary arrests and criminal prosecutions, Ms. Bachelet added. .

In addition to dissuading other journalists from reporting critically on relevant issues, such attacks weaken public debate and hamper society’s ability to respond effectively to challenges, including COVID-19, she said. .

World Press Freedom Day

Marked on May 3 each year, World Press Freedom Day celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom. It is also an opportunity to assess press freedom around the world, to defend the media against attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.

This date marks the adoption of the Windhoek Declaration for the Development of a Free, Independent and Pluralist Press at a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) conference in the Namibian capital, in 1991.

This year, the World Day focuses on the theme of “Information as a public good”, affirming the importance of information as a public good and exploring what can be done in production, distribution and receiving content to strengthen journalism, as well as to improve transparency and empowerment.

Help platforms become more transparent

The theme is linked to UNESCO’s work to ensure the long-term health of independent and pluralistic journalism and the safety of media professionals everywhere, said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of the United Nations agency. responsible for defending press freedom.

“As part of these efforts, we are working to create more transparency on online platforms in areas such as content moderation, while respecting human rights and international rules of freedom of expression.” , she said.

She also highlighted the agency’s work to equip people around the world with the media and information skills they need to navigate this new information landscape, so that they can avoid being duped or manipulated into. line.

“As we mark World Press Freedom Day, I call on everyone to renew their commitment to the fundamental right to freedom of expression, to stand up for media professionals and to join us in ensuring that information remains a public good, ”added Ms. Azoulay.

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