Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a cornerstone of good governance, sustainable development, and lasting peace and security.
Yet every day around the world, journalists and media workers are under attack. They face intimidation, threats and violence from governments, corporations, criminals or other forces that wish to silence or censor.
The theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day, “Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media”, highlights the need for action to upholding the right of journalists to carry out their vital work.
From traditional media platforms such as radio, print and television, to newer and more and more popular social media, blogs and citizen-led reporting, journalists are increasingly at risk.
Over the past decade, more than 600 journalists have been killed – at least 120 in the past year alone. Hundreds more have been detained. The dangers are not only physical: from cyber-attacks to bullying, the powerful are deploying numerous tools to try to stop the media from shedding light on misrule and misdeeds.
These are individual tragedies; collectively, they are an assault on the right of all people to the truth. I am especially concerned that so many of the perpetrators escape any form of punishment.
The United Nations system has established a Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. The plan aims to raise awareness and to support practical steps to create a free and safe working environment for journalists.
As we mark World Press Freedom Day, let us pledge to do our utmost to enable all journalists in all media to do their jobs. When it is safe to speak, the whole world benefits.