To some, World Press Freedom Day may be just another day.
But today – World Press Freedom Day – is a day to remind us of the importance of press freedom, to defend media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to the journalists who have lost their lives while acting on this fundamental human right: free speech. In addition to these, the U.N. is also addressing two pressing topics – gender equality and the safety of journalist in the digital world -where protection from surveillance is becoming an increasing priority.
At the start of this year, as many of you may already know, two brothers forced their way into the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French Satirical newspaper, and killed 12 people simply because they did not like what the newspaper was publishing. Of course this is not the only suppression of speech and violence that the media faces. The media is often targeted, harassed, suppressed and abolished, in some places more than other. Reporters and photographers from all around the world are being imprisoned and murdered for giving voices and telling stories of controversial topics.
Last Sunday in New York, the the United Nations and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization held a commemoration to honor World Press Freedom Day and “let journalist thrive.”
“Without them, we would have difficulty knowing about positive developments in the furthest corners of the world. In the same way, we would never hear the cries that are being silenced or the injustices being committed,” said General Assembly President of the UN, Sam Kutesa. “We may never know of abuses being perpetrated, hostages being taken or lives brutally stolen.”
It is important to note that Freedom of Speech isn’t just about the media and society being allowed to freely and independently practice speech, and also includes the freedom for the everyday person to access it. China, North Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, and several countries in Africa and southeast Asia are just a few of the places where news and speech is either suppressed, hard to obtain, or prohibited. Suppressed news and speech can also be found here the the United States.
Let us remember that freedom of speech is not just about what we are allowed to say, but what we are allowed to access as well. What is free speech if that speech is unable to be obtained?