Freedom of press under attack worldwide: UN Chief

UNITED NATIONS: Disinformation, hate speech and deadly attacks against journalists are threatening freedom of the press worldwide, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday, calling for greater solidarity with the people who bring us the news.
The appeal comes in his message ahead of World Press Freedom Day, celebrated annually on May 3, in line with a 1993 UN General Assembly resolution.
The focus this year is on the connection between press freedom and overall human rights.
“Freedom of the press is the foundation of democracy and justice. It gives all of us the facts we need to shape opinions and speak truth to power. But in every corner of the world, freedom of the press is under attack,” the UN chief said.
The Secretary-General is away from New York and a video of his message was played during a ceremony in the General Assembly Hall to commemorate the 30th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day.
Prominent journalists and the heads of media and human rights organizations from around the world are attending the event, sharing their experiences and opinions in several panels on subjects such as multilateralism and freedom of expression.
Delivering opening remarks, Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UN cultural agency UNESCO, which advocates for the protection of journalists, said 2022 was the deadliest year for the profession.
Last year, 86 journalists were killed, mainly outside war zones. “Oftentimes, they were at home with their family,” she said. Hundreds more were attacked or imprisoned.
She said the level of impunity for these crimes sends a chilling message because “the security of journalists is not a matter just for journalists or international organizations. It is a matter for society as a whole.”
Furthermore, reporters are also coming under attack in cyberspace. A 2021 report revealed that three out of four women journalists have been the victim of online harassment, prompting UNESCO to issue recommendations for digital platforms to step up protection.
Ms. Azoulay noted that these challenges are happening at the exact moment when journalists are needed more than ever, as the advent of the digital era has changed the entire information landscape.

Although the Internet has opened new channels for information and expression, it has also provided fertile ground for those seeking to sow disinformation and conspiracy theories.

“We find ourselves at a new crossroads,” she said. “Our current path is leading us away from informed public debates. Away from the very notion of a shared reality on which it depends. A path towards ever more polarization.”

She called for greater action to ensure that information can remain a public good, noting that UNESCO is supporting some 20 countries to develop educational policies in media and information literacy in the digital era.

The agency also organized a major global conference in Paris in February to discuss draft global guidelines for regulating digital platforms, which will be published later this year. –Agencies