New York

02 May 2013

Secretary-General's remarks on World Press Freedom Day

This is the 20th observance of World Press Freedom Day.  For anyone wanting to understand why we come together like this year after year, the website of UNESCO has the answer.

There you will find a grim catalogue of murder – a list of journalists who have been silenced forever for doing their jobs.

Such incidents span the continents.

This year alone, a reporter in the Middle East has been shot dead by a sniper; a radio manager in Latin America was assassinated while leaving the station; a bomb attack in South Asia targeted civilians, rescue services and the media; a community radio announcer in Africa was killed in a rebel raid on her broadcast facility; and in Europe, a journalist finally succumbed to the wounds he suffered in a beating years earlier that left him infirm and unable to speak.

This is only a sampling of what journalists may face in carrying out their vital work.  In shining a light on misdeeds and misrule, they run up against governments, corporations, criminal gangs, militias and others who want to stifle and censor their inquiries.

The targets range beyond traditional radio, print and television to social media, blogs and citizen-led reporting. And the threats are not just physical; cyber-attacks and legislative maneuvers are among the tools of coercion.

In addition to those who pay the ultimate price, hundreds of journalists have been detained.  Many languish for years in brutal conditions as a result of sham trials or trumped-up charges.

I condemn all such attacks and repression. I am especially concerned that so many of the perpetrators escape any form of punishment.

The right to freedom of expression, and to receive and impart information and ideas, is enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The violence we condemn today highlights the relevance of the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.  The plan and its recently adopted implementation strategy aim to promote collaboration among Governments, regional human rights bodies, non-governmental organizations, media organizations and the UN family.   There is more that we can do, including greater protections through the rule of law.  I urge all involved to do their utmost to translate the words of the plan into actions on the ground that will create a safer environment for the press. 

All journalists, across all media, need to be able to do their jobs.  When it is safe to speak, the whole world benefits.

Thank you.