UN Chief Says Defend the Rights of Journalists

Stop killing journalists. Photo: UNESCO
Stop killing journalists. Photo: UNESCO

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has conveyed his message for World Press Freedom Day, observed on 3 May.

“A free press is essential for peace, justice, sustainable development, and human rights. No democracy is complete without access to transparent and reliable information. It is the cornerstone for building fair and impartial institutions, holding leaders accountable, and speaking truth to power,” he said.

This is especially true during election seasons — the focus of this year’s World Press Freedom Day. Facts, not falsehoods, should guide people as they choose their representatives.

Yet, Mr. Guterres adds, while technology has transformed the ways in which we receive and share information, sometimes it is used to mislead public opinion or to fuel violence and hatred.

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Civic space has been shrinking worldwide at an alarming rate. And with anti-media rhetoric on the rise, so too are violence and harassment against journalists, including women.

“I am deeply troubled by the growing number of attacks and the culture of impunity. According to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), almost 100 journalists were killed in 2018. Hundreds are imprisoned,” he said.

Meanwhile, journalists Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone (Myanmar) will share this year’s UNESCO / Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize, following the recommendation of an international jury of media professionals.

Both laureates are serving seven-year prison sentences. At the time of their arrest in Yangon on 12 December 2017, they were working for the Reuters news agency, reporting on alleged human rights violations in Myanmar’s state of Rakhine.

“When media workers are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price. On World Press Freedom Day, I call on all to defend the rights of journalists, whose efforts help us to build a better world for all,” Mr. Guterres suggested.

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Rakesh Raman