On World Press Freedom Day today, my thoughts are, first and foremost, with all journalists who are working in Ukraine. Their work not only commands our respect, but is invaluable and at the same time life-threatening – at least ten media professionals have been killed in Ukraine since the war of aggression began. Unfortunately, their dedication is also representative of the job reporters around the world are doing and the sacrifices that they are making in the service of truth.
In this war of aggression, which is in violation of international law, as in numerous other conflicts, media professionals are often the first witnesses to make a decisive contribution to documenting armed conflict. They are the spokespeople of victims who would otherwise not be heard or be visible; they document not only human rights violations, but also war crimes. We have seen this in Mariupol and Bucha, among other places. Their contribution is all the more important as Moscow is flanking its war of aggression with targeted disinformation campaigns. To counter this, we are advocating independent and fact-based reporting as well as free digital media, which bring the truth to light.
Freedom of the press and freedom of information are in decline not only in Russia, but around the world. Journalists are experiencing far-reaching repressive actions both online and offline. Governments are seeking to restrict freedom of the press and freedom of information, to suppress debate, disseminate misinformation and intimidate journalists or even make them disappear. This is unacceptable.
To put it in a nutshell, free, democratic societies cannot exist without a free and diverse press, which not only lies at the heart of every democracy, but is also, when it comes down to it, a powerful bulwark for the preservation of human rights.