Statement by the Secretary General Thomas E. Garrett on World Press Freedom Day

May 3, 2022

Freedom of the press and freedom of opinion and expression are core values  of democratic societies. These values are increasingly threatened worldwide, specifically in authoritarian regimes that violate their citizens’ right to access independent information and engage in mass disinformation campaigns seeking to undermine democratic governments.

Information is a powerful weapon. The importance of media freedom is particularly underscored in times of crises and military conflicts. Putin’s war on Ukraine is a powerful example of how autocrats use state-controlled media outlets to spread lies and propaganda justifying crimes on innocent people, silence independent journalists and impose harsh penalties on those who dare to speak the truth.

The theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day: Journalism Under Digital Siege, puts a spotlight on how the digital transformation affects journalism and freedom of expression, including the risks posed to media workers by surveillance technologies. With very fast-paced technological advances, democratic governments should cooperate with the private sector and the media to develop more effective ways to protect media freedom from the misuse of new technologies. Ensuring the safety of journalists, supporting independent fact-based reporting, and increasing people’s digital literacy is critical to safeguard democracies from disinformation and malign interference and protect people’s right to access reliable, trustworthy, and independent information.

The right of the press to collect and disseminate information and the right of the people to express their opinion without fear of persecution are core principles of the Warsaw Declaration, the founding document of the Community of Democracies. The Community of Democracies will work with its Member States and partners to protect these shared values and contribute to strengthening democracy worldwide.