On May 3, we commemorate World Press Freedom Day and reaffirm the ideal that information is a public good, and that people have a right to learn about the leaders, events, and policies that shape their lives from independent sources. We also shine a spotlight on the safety of authors, bloggers, and journalists who often do their work at great personal risk.
During a World Press Freedom Day roundtable with journalists, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken described the current state of democracy and human rights as “sobering.” He stated, “Authoritarianism is on the rise around the world. Governments are becoming less transparent, more repressive. Corruption is spreading. Disinformation and misinformation are becoming rampant. And of course, the pandemic has accelerated many of these trends; it’s provided a pretext for repressive governments to, among other things, intensify their pressure on independent media.”
Regarding the safety of journalists, Secretary Blinken said “some governments incarcerate journalists, harass them, target them for violence. We’ve seen non-state actors like criminal gangs, terrorists, traffickers threaten journalists too. And we’ve seen the impact of internet slowdowns, shutdowns, other restrictions that can make it impossible to operate.” Secretary Blinken continued, “People everywhere should be free to express their beliefs, hold opinions without interference, to seek, receive, and share information and ideas. It’s even written into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, because being free to think and speak is central to what it means to be human. We see a free press as vital for human progress. When you harm journalists, you threaten that progress.”
Freedom of expression, including for members of the press, is a key pillar of democracy. The ability of journalists to gather and research facts and report the news is vital for facilitating the free flow of information and ideas that helps promote transparency and enable individuals to hold governments accountable. When journalists are threatened, attacked, censored, or imprisoned, it is a direct assault on a society’s resilience. Today and always, the United States is committed to promoting and defending the ability of journalists everywhere to exercise their right to freedom of expression freely and safely.
As Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1786, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”
"… We celebrate the courage of truth-tellers who refuse to be intimidated, often at great personal risk, and we reaffirm the timeless and essential role journalism and a free media play in societies everywhere." -POTUS
— Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (@StateDRL) May 3, 2021
About the Author: Stacy Mactaggert is the Director of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor’s Office of Policy Planning and Public Diplomacy at the U.S. Department of State.