“At a time when independent and free media reporting is more essential than ever, press freedom continues to be under threat.  Journalists continue to experience harsh working conditions with increasing financial and political pressure, surveillance, arbitrary prison sentences or violence for doing their work.  According to the UNESCO Observatory, 76 journalists were killed since 2020, while many more were arrested, harassed or threatened worldwide.  Of particular concern is gender-based violence targeting women journalists,” says a declaration released by the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell on behalf of the European Union (EU).

“Press freedom is a fundamental value for the European Union underpinned by many recent initiatives. Media freedom and the safety of journalists are key priorities of the new Human Rights and Democracy Action Plan and of the European Democracy Action Plan. In 2020, more than 400 journalists benefited from the EU mechanism for protection of Human Rights Defenders, while the EU took important actions to support journalists, independent media and the fight against disinformation in the context of the pandemic in many regions.

“In the past year the EU condemned on several occasions the intimidation and harassment that independent journalists suffer in countries around the world. The EU, including through its Special Representative for Human Rights, has continued to engage with persecuted independent journalists and intervened in support of detained journalists and bloggers.

“EU Delegations are the voice of the EU on the ground. They have closely monitored court proceedings against journalists, spoken out against the repression of human rights defenders and media workers and raised concerns with national authorities over the proposed communication, media, information and broadcasting legislation.

“The EU is determined to do more, in Europe and abroad. The EU will continue coordinating with international organizations and mechanisms and pioneer new approaches.  One example is the European Commission’s proposal for a Digital Services Act aimed at holding the major platforms accountable to make their systems fairer, safer and more transparent. We will also continue our action to counter disinformation and seek with all partners effective means to support sustainable business models for independent media.

“Freedom of information and free speech must be promoted and protected everywhere. This is in everyone’s interest. The EU will continue speaking up against any restriction on freedom of expression and censorship, both online and offline, in violation of international human rights law. Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democratic societies, which can thrive only if citizens have access to reliable information and can make informed choices.  Press freedom means security for all.”

The United Nations General Assembly declared May 3 to be World Press Freedom Day or just World Press Day, observed to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and marking the anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration, a statement of free press principles put together by African newspaper journalists in Windhoek in 1991.

Just as importantly, World Press Freedom Day is a day of support for media, which are targets for the restraint, or abolition, of press freedom.  It is also a day of remembrance for those journalists who lost their lives in the pursuit of a story.

This year’s World Press Freedom Day theme “Information as a Public Good” serves as a call to affirm the importance of cherishing information as a public good, and exploring what can be done in the production, distribution and reception of content to strengthen journalism, and to advance transparency and empowerment while leaving no one behind.  The theme is of urgent relevance to all countries across the world. It recognizes the changing communications system that is impacting on our health, our human rights, democracies and sustainable development.