MFC marks World Press Freedom Day in Chile and around the world

WPFD Mexico event 2024
Attendees of the event "Forum on media and freedom of expression in democracy" organised by the US Embassy in Mexico to mark World Press Freedom Day 2024. Photo: Embassy of Canada in Mexico on X/Twitter

Through events, statements, joint video messages and more, members of the Media Freedom Coalition were active across the world for World Press Freedom Day 2024.

Acting through central government and embassies, MFC member countries highlighted the importance of media freedom to democracy and society, and expressed solidarity with journalists including those who are under threat.

The MFC Secretariat recorded joint embassy activities in 12 countries, with 26 members of the MFC being involved.

Many more MFC embassies took part in activities or raised their voices individually.

Alongside this, the MFC hosted events at UNESCO’s global conference to mark World Press Freedom Day in Santiago, Chile. The global conference was organised in collaboration with the government of Chile – an MFC member.

Embassy activities for World Press Freedom Day

World Press Freedom Day is a key day in the calendar for embassies of MFC member countries, and in 2024 they took a range of actions to express their support for journalists and raise important media freedom issues.

Malta embassy event WPFD 2024 comp
Round table discussion held by MFC embassies in Malta, May 2024.

In DR Congo, the German Embassy hosted a reception as co-chair of the MFC in which journalists spoke about the challenges they face there. Embassies of MFC members in DR Congo have been active in recent months, for example speaking out about the detainment of the journalist Stanis Bujakera.

In Malta, MFC embassies held a round table discussion on press freedom together with media professionals from the country. In Norway, the Embassy of the Czech Republic and the Embassy of Sweden worked with the Nobel Peace Center to organise a film screening and panel discussion which is available to watch here.

In Sweden, the Estonian, German and Dutch Embassies organised an event with International IDEA on media literacy and elections.

There were also events in Albania, Bangladesh, Mexico and Peru, as well as an online event looking at the latest developments in Sudan and the needs of journalists there.

As well as events, embassies used other ways to mark World Press Freedom Day. In Belarus, representatives of 13 MFC member governments, alongside their partners, signed letters that were sent to each of the 35 media workers currently imprisoned in Belarus. The letter is available here in Belarusian and German.

In Vietnam, Ambassadors and other representatives of 10 MFC members produced a joint video message on the importance of press freedom. 

Global conference in Santiago, Chile

MFC WPFD plenary 2024 Minna Liina Lind
Estonia's Deputy Foreign Minister for Global Affairs Minna-Liina Lind speaking at the plenary session of UNESCO's global World Press Freedom Day conference. Photo: UNESCO

The MFC was involved throughout the global World Press Freedom Day conference in Santiago. On the morning of World Press Freedom Day, Minna-Liina Lind, Estonia’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Global Affairs, who also represented Estonia as co-chair of the Media Freedom Coalition, appeared in a plenary session alongside Nobel Prize winner Maria Ressa, actor,  producer and environmental activist Gael García Bernal, and the founder of Water Journalist Africa, Fredrick Mugira.

Deputy Minister Lind spoke about the need to protect all journalists who are threatened, the benefits that media freedom brings, and the importance of engaging states in efforts to defend it. She said, “When people see how much they gain from press freedom – how much prosperity it brings – it means we have to keep on going.”

The MFC also organised a side session at the conference titled “Case studies of action from the Media Freedom Coalition: supporting journalists at risk through safe refuge and coordinated advocacy”.

This was a chance to look back on, and draw useful lessons from, some of the MFC’s recent examples of action.

Jose Zamora, who is the son of Guatemalan imprisoned journalist Jose Rubén Zamora, spoke on the panel about the importance of government action in cases like his father’s. He said that in recent years, repressive regimes were increasingly using the law to target journalists, “first civil law and then most recently criminal law, which has been a terrible but very effective tool because it allows them to make sure that journalists flee the country and go into exile, or to imprison them indefinitely.

“So I think anything you can do to talk about these cases publicly, to denounce what’s happening, and to make sure that you let these repressive regimes know that the world is watching, makes a world of difference.”

MFC WPFD side event 2024 3 crop
The MFC's side event at the global World Press Freedom Day conference 2024.

Representing MFC co-chair Germany on the panel, Matthias Kiesler of the German Federal Foreign Office expressed that this is one of the areas where he sees added value of the MFC – acting jointly on cases of concern. “This is one of the big advantages of the Media Freedom Coalition – instead of doing things state by state, together we are much stronger.”

Matthias Kiesler also spoke about the issue of safe refuge for journalists – which various MFC member states have sought to address through measures such as emergency visas for journalists and human rights defenders, residency permits, and programmes such as Germany’s Hannah Arendt Initiative. Many of these measures were informed by the report on safe refuge published in 2020 by the High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom.

Speaking on behalf of the High Level Panel, the Panel’s Deputy Chair Can Yeginsu, said he wanted to “encourage members of the MFC who have not taken steps in this area to approach us and see if we can explore what can be done – and it’s not a one size fits all model.”

He also explained that states that have already acted on safe refuge are still welcome to engage with the Panel. He said states might be “looking to either improve the offering or to see how they can bring other stakeholders to assist them, because this is not something that is really in the gift only of the state. The state is an absolutely critical actor here, civil society are absolutely critical actors, and we also think there may be a role for other private actors to assist.”

The recording of the session is available here. The session also featured Ambassador Katrin Kivi, Ambassador at Large for Human Rights and Migration, Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Dr Aida Al-Kaisy, academic and media development consultant, and co-founder of Jummar, Iraqi independent media platform; Rosie Parkyn, Internews’ Global Director of Impact and Learning; and Laxman Datt Pant, Chairperson, Media Action Nepal and MFC Consultative Network co-chair.

Workshop to improve how the MFC operates

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Participants discussing how to improve the MFC's work at the workshop held in Santiago, Chile alongside World Press Freedom Day 2024.

Also in Santiago, Chile, the MFC organised a multistakeholder workshop to discuss some of the Coalition’s primary activities and how to improve them. This followed on from a workshop held in New York in 2023, alongside the World Press Freedom Day conference.

Around 40 participants joined the workshop in person, with more joining online, and they discussed the following three areas:

  • Legal reforms – how can the MFC encourage more member countries to undertake legal reforms, and other domestic measures, that promote media freedom?
  • Embassy Networks Initiative – how can the MFC’s work through embassies and diplomatic missions be further developed and expanded?
  • Cases of concern – how can the MFC’s responses to cases of concern be as effective and coordinated as possible?

These discussions have resulted in a range of suggestions which are now being further developed and consolidated by the MFC Secretariat. They will then be converted into recommendations for the year ahead. 

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