Media Freedom Coalition statement on World Press Freedom Day 2024

 

La declaración también está disponible en español.

On this World Press Freedom Day, we, the undersigned members of the Media Freedom Coalition, recognise the vital and irreplaceable role journalists and media workers play in providing accurate information on the issues that matter and the challenges facing communities, societies and humanity.

The theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day is “A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the face of the Environmental Crisis”, and in the context of today’s critical environmental challenges, it is clear that journalism has never been more important. If the world is to tackle climate change and related environmental crises effectively, and in a way that leaves no one behind, it needs independent journalists to explain the crisis, highlight and scrutinise potential solutions, provide factual information in the face of climate mis- and disinformation, and ensure the voices of the people most affected by these crises are heard.

It is in this context that we pay special tribute to journalists all over the world who report on and investigate environmental issues, sometimes at great risk to their safety or their lives.

However, it is not only in reporting on environmental crises that journalists are confronted with threats to their safety – be they physical, legal, digital or psychosocial in nature. Journalists today, in all their diversity, are faced with an unprecedented range of threats and challenges that restrict their ability to report without fear or favour.

They include the misuse of the law to target journalists. They include laws that are designed to make it harder – or impossible – for independent journalists to operate, whether through unnecessarily expansive “fake news” laws, or laws that impose administrative or financial restrictions on news organisations. We call on all states to bring their laws, policies and practices fully into compliance with their obligations and commitments under international human rights law.

These threats include many types of violence, up to and including the killing of journalists, which we continue to see both within and outside of conflict with a high level of impunity. In situations of armed conflict journalists and media workers can play an important role in the protection of civilians and conflict prevention – however, their work puts them at risk of intimidation, harassment and violence. The MFC remains deeply concerned about attacks and violence against journalists in conflict situations. Journalists are civilians and, as such, are afforded protection under international humanitarian law and must not be targeted. There must be independent and effective investigations into attacks against journalists and media workers to bring perpetrators of crimes to justice.

Threats faced by media workers also include the steep economic challenges that the media sector faces, and the difficulties in developing news business models that can ensure both quality and independence. And they include an array of threats in the online sphere, from online harassment and mis- and disinformation to internet shutdowns and the deeply concerning misuse of surveillance technology such as commercial intrusion software – sometimes referred to as spyware – to monitor the activities of journalists.

We note that recent advancements in technology such as generative AI provide opportunities both within and outside the media sector; however, the use of this technology with intent to manipulate the information sphere may also threaten citizens’ access to reliable information.

Women, who are disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis, face particular challenges and threats as media workers, including gendered harassment online, gendered disinformation, and a lack of access to senior positions in many media organisations around the world. Yet we know their journalism is essential to illuminating the various challenges facing societies today.

In addition to the importance of journalism in addressing climate change and environmental crises, the MFC also wishes to draw attention to the multiple protracted conflict or crisis situations around the world – also known as “forgotten crises”. Not only are there huge risks to media workers who live and work in these situations; there is also the risk that, without journalists being able to report on such crises, and without the international attention that flows from this, these crises will persist and potentially deteriorate further.

Media freedom and the right to freedom of expression are essential foundations of a democratic society and one of the basic conditions for its progress and development. In the face of unprecedented global challenges we must protect and uphold media freedom, now more than ever.

Signed:

Argentina
Australia
Austria
Belgium
Belize
Botswana
Bulgaria
Canada
Chile
Costa Rica
Croatia
Cyprus
Czechia
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
France
Germany
Ghana
Greece
Guyana
Honduras
Iceland
Ireland
Italy
Japan
Kosovo
Latvia
Lebanon
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Maldives
Montenegro
New Zealand
North Macedonia
Norway
Portugal
Republic of Korea
Serbia
Seychelles
Sierra Leone
Slovakia
Slovenia
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
Ukraine
Uruguay
the Netherlands
the United Kingdom
the United States

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