For the last many years, journalists have been under attack, and 2022 was the deadliest year for the profession. As one more World Press Freedom Day passes on May 3, journalists across the world are still under threat.
2023 marks the 30th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day. In a message calling for “greater solidarity with the people who bring us the news”, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that disinformation, hate speech, and deadly attacks against journalists are threatening freedom of the press worldwide.
“Freedom of the press is the foundation of democracy and justice. It gives all of us the facts we need to shape opinions and speak the truth to power. But in every corner of the world, freedom of the press is under attack,” Guterres said.
UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay said 2022 would be the deadliest year for the profession. Last year, 86 journalists were killed, mainly outside war zones. “Oftentimes, they were at home with their family,” she said. Hundreds more were attacked or imprisoned.
She said the level of impunity for these crimes sends a chilling message because “the security of journalists is not a matter just for journalists or international organisations. It is a matter for society as a whole.”
Furthermore, reporters are also coming under attack in cyberspace. A 2021 report revealed that three out of four women journalists have been the victims of online harassment, prompting UNESCO to issue recommendations for digital platforms to step up protection.
DIGITAL ERA DILEMMA
Azoulay said that the challenges are happening at the exact moment when journalists are needed more than ever, as the advent of the digital era has changed the entire information landscape.
Although the Internet has opened new channels for information and expression, it has also provided fertile ground for those seeking to sow disinformation and conspiracy theories.
A NEW CROSSROADS
“We find ourselves at a new crossroads,” she said. “Our current path is leading us away from informed public debates. Away from the very notion of a shared reality on which it depends. A path towards ever more polarisation.”
She called for greater action to ensure that information can remain a public good, noting that UNESCO is supporting some 20 countries to develop educational policies in media and information literacy in the digital era.
The 30th anniversary celebration of World Press Freedom Day calls to recentre press freedom, as well as independent, pluralistic, and diverse media, as necessary key to the enjoyment of all other human rights. This anniversary coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Vienna Conference and its Declaration and Programme of Action on Human Rights, which established important institutions safeguarding human rights, and with the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.