Freedom of the press under threat


World Press Freedom Day is being celebrated for the 25th time today. The international focus for the day is the importance of the media as a watchdog keeping power in check.

‘Freedom of the press is the cornerstone of any vibrant democracy. All countries must protect journalists who are performing their role as a critical corrective in society,’ Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide said.

Norwegian ambassador Gunnar Holm (m) at a seminar on press freedom in Ghana’s capital Accra. The seminar was supported by Norway. Credit: Siri Andersen, MFA

Freedom of the press is under threat in many countries throughout the world, according to the most recent report by Reporters without borders (RSF). Freedom of the press is considered to be threatened or in a very serious situation in 70 countries. The report particularly draws attention to a sharp increase in hostile rhetoric, hate speech and attacks on journalists and the media, including in Europe.

‘We are worried about the negative trends in the working conditions for journalists and the growing number of threats against and attacks on them in a number of established democracies,’ said Ms Eriksen Søreide.

RSF reports that there are positive developments in a number of African and Latin American countries. This is opening up opportunities for even closer cooperation across regions to promote freedom of expression and of the press. Norway is ranked as number one in the RSF World Press Freedom Index for the second year in a row.

‘Freedom of the press is widely respected in Norway. Nevertheless, we are concerned about continual harassment, hate speech and threats against journalists, particularly against women. The security of journalists is essential for freedom of expression and freedom of the press. We must work every day to ensure their safety – in Norway and elsewhere,’ said Minister of Culture Trine Skei Grande.

Events to mark the day were held in Oslo and Bergen, with the Minister of Culture participating at the Nordic Media Festival in Bergen.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was represented at Unesco’s international celebration of World Press Freedom Day, which took place in Accra, Ghana. The Norwegian Union of Journalists and the Ghanaian Union of Journalists held a two-day seminar on safety for women journalists, with support from Norway. The safety of journalists is a priority in the Foreign Ministry’s strategy to promote freedom of expression, which was launched in 2016.

‘Promoting freedom of expression has high priority in the Government’s foreign and development policy. We will continue our work to promote and protect freedom of the press and independent media internationally,’ said Foreign Minister Eriksen Søreide.

Every year in May, the Unesco/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize is awarded to a journalist who has demonstrated courage and strength in the name of freedom of expression. This year’s winner is the Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, also known as Shawkan.

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