The governments of the Media Freedom Coalition, as well as their embassies, marked World Press Freedom Day on May 3rd 2023 with a range of activities and engagements to promote media freedom and show their support for journalists and media workers around the world.
Events took place at the global level and in specific countries, while governments and embassies also raised their voices through statements, video messages, and an op-ed in a national newspaper.
Events in New York
At the global level, the MFC organised events in New York alongside UNESCO’s official conference for World Press Freedom Day and many other events happening in the same week.
The MFC’s Year in Review session, hosted at Canada’s Permanent Representation to the United Nations, was an opportunity to look back and learn lessons from the various MFC activities in the prior 12 months – with a focus on actions by embassies.
One of the panellists was Lina Attalah, Editor-in-Chief of Mada Masr in Egypt. She said: “All the actions mentioned through reporting of the MFC’s work throughout the past year are very welcome. I think they are all actions that amount to the very basic act of witnessing and acknowledging the work that we do, but also acknowledging the government’s response, because I think the worst fear we have is fear of being isolated, of having to face these challenges in isolation. It makes a whole difference when we are being witnessed and acknowledged.”
The panel also featured Jaymie Reyes from the Embassy of the Netherlands in the Philippines; Sally-Ann Wilson of Public Media Alliance, and the Consultative Network; and Leopoldo Maldonado of Article 19. The event was attended by diplomats, government officials, civil society figures, journalists, members of the High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom, and UNESCO.
At the end of the session, Mada Masr – Egypt’s leading independent online news outlet – was presented with the 2023 Canada-UK Media Freedom Award. The award recognises those who have championed freedom of speech and democracy.
The government of Estonia marked World Press Freedom Day by making a new commitment of 35 residency permits per year for journalists at risk globally. H.E. Märt Volmer, Undersecretary for Global Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, made the announcement at the session “Beyond the Crisis: Embedding Safe Refuge for Journalists at Risk,” hosted by the government of Estonia, the High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom and the Committee to Protect Journalists.
At this event, representatives from Germany, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Canada also re-iterated their commitment to the issue of safe refuge for journalists, pointing to how they are further strengthening the pathways to safety, in consultation with the High Level Panel and civil society.
On 3rd May, the High Level Panel also launched its fifth enforcement report, “On Religious Freedom and Discontent: Report on International Standards and Blasphemy Laws”. Karuna Nundy, member of the High Level Panel and report author, presented the report and its recommendations, the first of which is the repeal of all blasphemy laws, especially those that carry criminal penalties. Watch the launch event here.
MFC Strategy Workshop
Alongside these events, the MFC also hosted an interactive workshop (above) with over 50 participants from government, civil society, the High Level Panel and UNESCO. In the workshop, four breakout groups discussed critical strategic questions facing the Coalition, producing ideas and recommendations which will be brought together by the MFC Secretariat.
Topics included the MFC’s approach to cases of concern, how to incorporate diverse themes and issues in the MFC’s decision-making, approaches to government commitments, and inclusion of all member countries within the MFC.
MFC Joint Statement on World Press Freedom Day
On 3rd May the MFC published a joint statement to mark World Press Freedom Day, which paid tribute to journalists and media workers all over the world and highlighted the critical importance of media freedom to democracy and human rights. The link with human rights was particularly relevant given the theme of the 2023 World Press Freedom Day, in its 30th anniversary year: “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of expression as a driver for all other human rights.”
On social media, the MFC’s statement received the highest exposure of any MFC thematic statement to date with over 33,000 views.
For World Press Freedom Day 2023, diplomatic missions of MFC member countries took a range of actions on media freedom including organizing events, facilitating dialogue, and making public statements. Embassies also amplified the MFC’s joint statement or used key messages from it.
In total, the MFC Secretariat has tracked 59 instances of embassy activity and communications in connection with the day, taking place in 28 countries. At least 26 member countries of the MFC were involved.
Some of the coordinated actions included:
Bangladesh: The diplomatic network released a joint op-ed celebrating the fundamental principles of press freedom, and paid tribute to journalists who have lost their lives practicing their profession. The statement was signed by 16 countries and published in a national daily newspaper. The Heads of Missions also held events with the media in Bangladesh as well as recorded a joint video on press freedom, released on YouTube and network member Twitter accounts.
Jordan: To mark World Press Freedom Day, the Canadian and Dutch embassies convened discussions on the risks women journalists around the world are facing.
Mexico: The Canadian, Dutch and US Embassies organised an event with journalists and students to discuss violence and other challenges faced by media workers, with participation from the Canadian Deputy Head of Mission, the Ambassador of the Netherlands, representatives from Article 19 and the Committee to Protect Journalists, and journalist Ana Maria Salazar.