United States pledges to work with international community to defend journalists and press freedom

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Monday reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to defending free and open press around the world.

Her commitment, on the World Press Freedom Day, came at a time when human rights organizations are warning that press freedom is under assault, and has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield (left), new Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations, pays a courtesy call to Secretary-General António Guterres. UN Photo/Mark Garten 25 February 2021 New York, United States of America 
Linda Thomas-Greenfield (left), new Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations, pays a courtesy call to Secretary-General António Guterres. UN Photo/Mark Garten 25 February 2021 New York, United States of America

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield said Tuesday, “we have celebrated World Press Freedom Day to reaffirm the vital importance of a free press and to honor journalists who, in many parts of the world, place themselves at risk to empower people with the information they need.”

“The free and wide exchange of information and ideas is foundational to democracy and critical to a functioning society. From public health to civil and political issues, people must have access to information to have agency over their own lives and the lives of their families,” she continued.

Widespread access to open and honest information is as important as ever in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused humanitarian and economic crises around the world.

While progress has been made in many parts of the world, there is a long way to go in protecting press freedom. As anti-coup protests continue in Myanmar, journalists have been targeted and many have been arrested for simply doing their jobs. The nation’s junta-controlled media announced a ban on satellite television Tuesday.

“With authoritarianism on the rise across the globe, we have seen governments target reporters for violence, detention and harassment, restrict internet access, damage technologies belonging to free media, peddle propaganda, and sow disinformation,” said Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield Tuesday.

A recent report from Amnesty International detailed the state of journalistic freedom in East and Southern Africa, asserting that there is a systematic pattern of suppressing truths, intimidating journalists, and silencing dissent.

“A vibrant, independent, and free press is the cornerstone of any free society,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.

In order to ensure the future of press freedom in the world, the international community must make it a priority and hold leaders accountable going forward.

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees journalists, and all people, a right to the freedom of expression. This is a foundational value of the UN system,” said U.S. Ambassador Thomas.

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield asserted that the United States will not sit idly by while the press and free expression are curtailed, saying, “The United States and our partners at the United Nations, including the Group of Friends for the Protection of Journalists, will continue to condemn and call out governments that threaten these fundamental rights, target journalists, and engage in suppressing media and the flow of information.”

Noah Pitcher is a global politics correspondent for Today News Africa covering the U.S. government, United Nations, African Union, and other actors involved in international developments, political controversies, and humanitarian issues.

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