World Press Freedom Day: for the Safety of Journalists and the Freedom of Speech

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Since 1993, when this day was first proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly, World Press Freedom Day has celebrated the fundamental principle of freedom of the press. It defends the media from attacks on its independence; and, among other things, serves as a tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

Freedom of speech and press freedom
Freedom of speech concept

Press Freedom

Throughout history, media has had a crucial role in the building up and/or the destruction of systems of government; and in spite of many different circumstances, media freedom remains among the key components in indicating the level of democracy in any given country. For better or for worse.

Press Freedom is not solely a national issue, and the international community is constantly engaged in following media trends, as well as in establishing and maintaining a global parametric regarding the situation of the media and developments within it.

Such an instrument is the World Press Freedom Index, published annually by Reporters without Borders, which is a network of correspondents in 130 countries that mobilizes support, challenges governments, and wields influence both on the ground and in the institutions where media and internet standards and legislation are drafted.

According to the 2020 World Press Freedom Index, the Scandinavian countries (Norway, Finland and Denmark) top the list again, whereas North Korea’s name appears at the very bottom of the rankings.

Observing World Press Freedom Day

Recent years have brought into focus the outline of reshaping the traditional path of journalism, as a result of a variety of technological advancements.

Parallel with this, the possible ways of observing this day have arguably expanded, at least to some extent. Nowadays, journalists and all other supporters of the freedom of speech can make an impact even by just launching a digital advocacy campaign.

This year, this day is celebrated by highlighting the theme ‘Journalism without fear or favor,’ as a symbol for praising the work of jurnalists in revealing the truth to the public, regardless of the obstacles and potential risks they may face.

Freedom of speech and the safety of journalists

If journalists were not free to report the truth and the facts, how would people stand up for their rights and defend the general welfare?

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the freedom of speech is listed among the most important human freedoms. With this truth in mind, democratic states all around the world operate with different precepts and laws aiming at the exact same thing – ensuring a safe environment for journalists and making it possible for the people’s voice to be heard.

The safety of journalists is among the biggest concerns to be tackled.

According to an OSCE report, more than 600 journalists have been killed worldwide since 2005, most of them intentionally or in the line of duty. Journalists should fully enjoy their right to inform and report without being endangered by any form of violence, threat, or intimidation.

Protecting the safety of journalists and demanding justice for those who attack them must continue to be recognized as the key pillars for building free and inclusive society.

 

If we lack the press freedom it is going to be hard to proceed with different aspects of life

Arbër Selmani, an award-winning and distinguished Kosovar journalist, shares with us his perspectives, carrying in his shoulders a decade-long experience in journalism.

Arbër Selmani is talking with us about press freedom
Arbër Selmani / Photo: Mersina Xhemajli

The freedom of media is usually perceived in parallel with the state of democracy in any given country. What’s your say on this? Why is media freedom of such significance?

“Given that the media should act as a watchdog over important state issues, I believe that a free media is always welcome in societies, especially in places like Kosovo, the Western Balkans, or other post-war countries. Freedom of media takes another shape and form in these societies, and if we lack media freedom it is going to be hard to proceed with other phases of life,” Selmani notes.

 

Observers of all aspects of life

He is of the opinion that media makes the state act properly and be transparent and more responsible for different actions.

“I am always referring to a powerful media, journalists and editors who document, take things factually and not for granted, otherwise freedom of media could be misused and would serve us all for the worst,” he adds during his conversation with Youth Time.

World Press Day has caught us this year in a strange state of mind. I believe we have been saved and also destroyed in many ways during these days, from the media freedom and the reporting in itself

 

He shares with our readers an idea to mark World Press Freedom day while in lockdown.

 

 

“We can all once more emphasize even on our social media that we cannot be silenced, we have to stay true to media, we have to expose the wrongdoings and we need to make people’s lives better by exactly reporting and doing our best as journalists.”

Selmani believes that by reporting accordingly and professionally during pandemics, they all are marking this day as they are supposed to “by being observers of all aspects of life.”

 

I have discussed more broadly the correlation between technological advancements and journalism in a previous piece “Data Journalism: Is the norm of objectivity already subverted?

Whereas, for the weight and difficulty of reporting and giving life-saving information during worldwide emergencies please check out another piece- “Behind the Curtains: The burdens of reporting during a pandemic”.

Title photo: Photos: Shutterstock / Photomontage: Martina Advaney

 

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