In an official statement issued to commemorate World Press Freedom Day, President Joe Biden warned that authoritarians around the world seek to undermine journalists and their role in preserving democratic values.
“Journalists uncover the truth, check the abuse of power, and demand transparency from those in power. They are indispensable to the functioning of democracy,” the statement says. “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, journalists and media workers have been on the front lines to keep the public informed, at significant risk to their own health. And, at a time when the truth is increasingly under attack, our need for accurate, fact-based reporting, open public conversation, and accountability has never been greater.”
“It is incumbent on all of us to counter these threats to a free and independent media, including physical risk and arbitrary detention. The Committee to Protect Journalists found that, in 2020, a record number of journalists were imprisoned globally. Online abuse and harassment of journalists, particularly women and journalists of color, continues to increase,” it continues. “Authoritarians are striving to undermine the free press, manipulate the truth, or spread disinformation even as a shrinking news industry is creating more and more “news deserts,” areas without local media, around the world. These attacks are nothing less than a threat to democracies everywhere.”
This year’s theme for World Press Freedom Day is “Information as a Public Good,” coming on the 30th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration, the statement of press freedom principles by African newspaper journalists; the date of the Declaration’s adoption is internationally recognized as World Press Freedom Day.
You can read the Declaration via the UNESCO Digital Library HERE.
Promoting information as a public good is necessary to ‘build back better’ in the post-COVID world. It is a value that strongly supports with the UN Sustainable Development aspiration to advance ‘public access to information and fundamental freedoms’ (SDG 16.10),” UNESCO said in a statement of its own. “And it constitutes the new normative context to highlight free, pluralistic and independent journalism as a springboard for progress.”
Alan is a writer, editor, and news junkie based in New York.