BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - AS the world recognised yesterday (May 3) as World Press Freedom Day, United States Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken posited that a free and independent press is the core institution that publishes information the public needs to advocate for themselves, make informed decisions and hold government officials accountable.
In his address to recognise the efforts journalists and the media play, he asserted that the United States advocates for press freedom online and offline, and for the safety of journalists and media workers worldwide.
“Freedom of expression and access to factual and accurate information provided by independent media are foundational to prosperous and secure democratic societies. Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, freedom of expression includes the right of all individuals ‘to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’ But the outlook for the rights of journalists today is harrowing,” Blinken added.
Journalists the world over, including the Caribbean region, have been prosecuted, chastised, attacked, censored or bullied as they carried out their duty. Politicians have either made it difficult to access information or downright prevented information from becoming public.
The Secretary of State noted that the United States has responded strongly to attacks on the media, including the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
COVID-19 has not stopped the harassment and attacks against journalists, Blinken noted, pointing out that it has instead “provided a pretext for repressive governments to intensify pressure on independent media. It is exactly in that kind of hostile environment that the exercise of freedom of expression, especially by members of the press, becomes even more crucial in alerting the public to abuses and corruption and in countering dangerous misinformation and disinformation. We call on all governments to ensure media safety and protect journalists’ ability to do their jobs without fear of violence, threats, or unjust detention”.
He added: “We urge governments to investigate and seek accountability for all crimes against journalists and media workers. The United States is committed to working in partnership with members of the media, the private sector, non-governmental organisations and other concerned governments to support access to information and defend freedom of expression and the brave journalists who face intimidation, harassment, arrest and violence in exercising their rights.”