Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (2 May) to mark World Press Freedom Day:
Every year on 3 May we celebrate World Press Freedom Day, when we remind ourselves of the state of freedom of the press around the world and call for the independence of the media and journalists as well as their personal security.
Freedom of the press is an essential prerequisite for realising human rights – for how can we find out about human rights violations if it is not possible to report on them?
The last year has seen many attacks on freedom of the press. Only a few days ago, the Turkish Government decided to extend the state of emergency by another three months. Emergency decrees have already led to the closure of many media outlets and the arrest of many critical journalists. The fact that the German journalist Deniz Yücel is being held on remand demonstrates how far governments will go to prevent undesirable reporting.
In Russia, Novaya Gazeta was the target of threats after it drew attention to crimes committed against LGBTI individuals in Chechnya. The journalist who uncovered these crimes has now gone into hiding. Her colleague Anna Politkovskaya, who also reported on the situation in Chechnya, was killed for openly speaking the truth.
Last autumn I spoke to a journalist in Hong Kong, and early this year to a journalist from Uganda in Berlin. Both of them told me in great detail how it is possible to control the media landscape purely through financial pressure and without violence – under very different circumstances but with the same result.
Sometimes the truth is uncomfortable. However, it must be possible to speak, print and post it. The media must be free – both online and offline. On World Press Freedom Day, I would like to express my respect to all journalists who put themselves at great risk to provide truly free reporting and to give them my thanks for their important work.