“The only security of all is in a free press,” said Thomas Jefferson once. The quote holds relevance in today's time, as the world grapples with increasing threats to the free voice of journalism, and perhaps the voice of reason itself.
On World Press Freedom Day, which is celebrated on May 3 each year, it becomes important the know why a free press is needed.
The event was born in the UN General Assembly in December 1993, after the recommendation of UNESCO's General Conference. Since then, May 3, the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek, is celebrated worldwide as World Press Freedom Day.
This year, the theme of World Press Day is -- 'Journalism without Fear or Favour'. Now, what does that mean?
As the world witnesses more threats towards journalism, upholding the profession becomes ever more important. India this year dropped two places on the global press freedom index.
It ranked 142 out of 180 countries, in the annual Reporters Without Borders analysis.
The RWB report further states -- "With no murders of journalists in India in 2019, as against six in 2018, the security situation for the country’s media might seem, on the face of it, to have improved. However, there have been constant press freedom violations, including police violence against journalists, ambushes by political activists, and reprisals instigated by criminal groups or corrupt local officials."
At the time of coronavirus, freedom of the press becomes vital amid fake news and false information being meted out to people through various mediums.
Thus, the role of an unbiased press, free of fear or favour to any motives but the truth, is needed.
UN Secretary General António Guterres also issued a request to all governments to protect their media workers. "Journalists & media workers help us make informed decisions that could make the difference between life & death," he stated.
Journalists & media workers help us make informed decisions that could make the difference between life & death.On #WorldPressFreedomDay, I call on governments to protect media freedom & support journalists so they can do their jobs throughout the #COVID19 pandemic & beyond. pic.twitter.com/mOwBDCxRMU— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) May 3, 2020
This year, UNESCO is launching a global campaign on media and social media channels, with a focus on this year's theme.
From May 4 to 6, UNESCO will also hold several events including: High-level Dialogue on Press Freedom and Tackling Disinformation in the Covid-19 context, webinars, and online discussions via Facebook Live, YouTube, and Microsoft teams, amongst other digital platforms. Details are available on the UNESCO site.
The sub-themes for this year also are:
• Safety of Women and Men Journalists and Media Workers
• Independent and Professional Journalism free from Political and Commercial Influence
• Gender Equality in All Aspect of the Media