World Press Freedom Day: WACC urges support for independent, unbiased media

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Photo: Reflect Reality project/Internews 

“Journalism without Fear or Favour” is the theme of World Press Freedom Day, Sunday, May 3, 2020. It takes place in a complex landscape, where traditional media and social media compete for trustworthiness and relevance.

The sub-themes of this year’s World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) are no less important with a focus on the safety of women and men journalists and media workers; the urgency of independent and professional journalism free from political and commercial influence; and the ongoing struggle for gender equality in all aspects of the media.

As UNESCO notes of WPFD 2020, “Persisting and new forms of control of media threaten journalism’s role in providing the public with reliable facts, inclusive views and a diversity of cultural expressions.”

At the same time, civil society organizations are increasingly aware of the need to free journalism from the grip of self-aggrandizing political leaders seeking support for policies that benefit the few to the detriment of the majority.

WACC, its members and partners know that if humanity is to overcome global poverty, to tackle the climate crisis, and to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which include peace, social progress, and the rule of law: genuine press freedom is indispensable.

This fact has been thrown into relief by the Covid-19 pandemic, when people’s lives and livelihoods depend on truthful information, greater public awareness, and government accountability. The pandemic is a major threat to independent journalism, as governments take advantage of lockdowns to impose media restrictions at the same time as many outlets face financial collapse.

Against this background, major Internet companies have become the primary curators of journalistic and cultural content. Some of them operate business models that directly or indirectly promote disinformation, hate speech, hostility to news outlets and individual reporters, and intimidation of women journalists.

On World Press Freedom Day 2020, while people and nations continue the struggle against Covid-19, WACC urges support for independent and unbiased media.

At the same time, journalism without fear and favour demands safeguards on the part of governments and vigilance on the part of civil society so that all can communicate freely and safely.

About the Author

Philip Lee

Philip Lee

Currently WACC Deputy Director of Programmes and editor of the international journal Media Development. Recent publications include Communicating Peace: Entertaining Angels Unawares (ed.) (2008), and Public Memory, Public Media and the Politics of Justice (ed.) (2012).