World Press Freedom Day: Journalism must take a lead in countering hate-speech and propaganda

World Press Freedom Day: Journalism must take a lead in countering hate-speech and propaganda

3 May is celebrated worldwide as World Press Freedom Day. To mark the day the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN) is calling for quality journalism and ethical communications to be promoted in order to counter dangerous trends that are threatening press freedom.

According to EJN, around the world the information crisis is defined by more government surveillance and interference, more corporate snooping and exploitation of personal information and a growing trend of abuse in online speech.

“Journalists must be free to exercise their profession without a climate of fear and intimidation,” EJN’s director, Aidan White, said in a statement.

“Ethical values in media are not marginal to democracy, they are essential to confronting the crisis of self-censorship, propaganda and hateful communications which is emerging around the world.”

The Ethical Journalism Network has launched campaigns to combat hate-speech in key areas of reporting including migration and journalism in areas of conflict and social dislocation and has developed a five-point test to help journalists identify and eliminate hate-speech in their work.

 “Everyone has the right to free speech, but that must not be abused by a lack of respect and intolerance of others,” says White.

Humanity, accuracy and transparency in our communications are core elements of ethical journalism that can provide benchmarks for more responsible public communications.”

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, urged “all Governments, politicians, businesses and citizens to commit to nurturing and protecting an independent, free media. Without this fundamental right, people are less free and less empowered. With it, we can work together for a world of dignity and opportunity for all."

The International Federation of Journalists vowed to step up the pressure on world leaders to act in defense of press freedom.  “There must be no hiding place for those who attack journalists or undermine media freedom.”

To mark the World Press Freedom Day, the federation is publishing a new survey which shows the extent of press freedom violations in many parts of the globe.

The survey documents cases of killings, attacks, censorship, hate speech and intimidation of journalists in Africa, Latin America and Europe. It also highlights success stories where journalists have resisted such threats and shows how campaigning journalists unions are at the forefront of the fight for media freedom around the world.

In Brussels, the European Federation of Journalists will denounce the media freedom crackdown in Turkey during a day of events as well as the growing phenomenon of self-censorship in European journalism to mark World Press Freedom Day.

Ahead of Word Press Freedom Day, the European Federation of Journalists organized a conference last week (26 April) in Sarajevo to work together for self-regulation in media to ensure accountability and transparency for their audience.

The participants were told by Dunja Mijatović, representative for media freedom in the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, that self-regulation was the only way media can address issues of accountability, transparency and ensuring press freedom.

World Press Freedom Day

World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of UNESCO's General Conference. Since then, 3 May, the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek is celebrated worldwide as World Press Freedom Day.

The Declaration of Windhoek is a statement of free press principles put together by newspaper journalists in Africa during a UNESCO seminar on "Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press" in Windhoek, Namibia, from 29 April to 3 May 1991.

This document calls for free, independent, pluralistic media worldwide, characterizing free press as essential to democracy and as a fundamental human right.

The World Press Freedom Day is an opportunity to: celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom; assess the state of press freedom throughout the world; defend the media from attacks on their independence; and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

This year’s the World Press Freedom Day focuses on three different aspects of press freedom:

  • freedom of information as a fundamental freedom and as a human right
  • protecting press freedom from censorship and surveillance overreach
  • ensuring safety for journalism online and offline

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