Statement by President Joe Biden on World Press Freedom Day
Thirty years ago today, in the face of constant pressure and violence, African journalists came together to issue the Windhoek Declaration, which affirmed that “[t]The establishment, maintenance and promotion of an independent, pluralistic and free press are essential to the development and maintenance of democracy in a nation, as well as to economic development. Then, as today, we celebrate the courage of truth-tellers who refuse to be intimidated, often at great personal risk, and we reaffirm the timeless and essential role that journalism and free media play in societies of the whole world.
Journalists uncover the truth, verify abuses of power and demand transparency from those in power. They are essential to the functioning of democracy. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, journalists and media professionals have been on the front lines of keeping the public informed, at significant risk to their own health. And, in a time when the truth is increasingly under attack, our need for accurate and factual reporting, open public conversation and accountability has never been greater.
It is incumbent upon all of us to counter these threats to free and independent media, including physical risks and arbitrary detention. The Committee to Protect Journalists found that in 2020 a record number of journalists were imprisoned around the world. Online abuse and harassment of journalists, especially women and journalists of color, continues to rise. Authoritarians work to undermine the free press, manipulate the truth or spread disinformation even as a declining news industry increasingly creates “information deserts,” areas without local media , in the whole world. These attacks are nothing less than a threat to democracies around the world.
Today, World Press Freedom Day, we celebrate the fierce bravery of journalists around the world. We recognize the essential role that a free press plays in building prosperous, resilient and free societies. And we recommit to protecting and promoting free, independent and diverse media around the world.