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World Press Freedom Day: Difference Day’s online Conference successfully involved people all over the world

World Press Freedom Day: Difference Day’s online Conference successfully involved people all over the world

Brussels, 3 May 2020. “Press freedom is an essential element for democracy. When press freedom suffers, democracy suffers and our entire society suffers. More than ever we need facts, more than ever we need press freedom.” said Guilherme Canela, UNESCO’s Chief of Section for Freedom of Expression, during his live contribution to the Difference Day Conference 2020.

Celebrating World Press Freedom Day 2020, the Difference Day Conference commemorated the fundamental principles of press freedom, paying tribute to all journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of the profession. Since 1993 more than 1387 journalists have been killed ‘in the line of duty’ or merely for the fact of being a journalist.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the online conference made it possible to welcome a broad number of speakers and participants from all over the world to discuss this year’s global topic ‘Journalism without Fear or Favour’. During the event, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) awarded the Honorary Title for Freedom of Expression to Turkish writers Ahmet Altan and Elif Shafak, for their courage in the fight for freedom of expression.

On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, it is important to underline the role of free and independent media; they are all in the DNA of our European Democracies
Věra Jourová, Vice-President of the European Commission

“On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, it is important to underline the role of free and independent media; they are all in the DNA of our European Democracies.” highlighted European Commission Vice-President Věra Jourová, strongly engaged to increase press freedom and the protection of journalists in Europe. “Member States have the tools available, with the support of the Commission, to help the media sector. And I will do all I can to ensure that media are an important element of the European Recovery Package. Today, I ask governments to make sure that journalists are able to work in the right conditions.”

Ms. Caoilfhionn Gallagher, Human Rights and Media Law specialist and barrister representing the killed journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family, emphasized that the dangers and risks faced by journalists are changing, as more journalists in non-conflict zones are being killed.

This trend is currently reinforced with the pandemic of COVID-19. A report published by UNESCO shows that journalists around the globe, including in Europe, are being silenced or criminalized for reporting on sensitive topics, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. “In an increasing number of countries, journalists are being attacked, arrested and detained when reporting on COVID-19 and, in particularly, on how the pandemic is being handled by the authorities in those countries. Some authorities misuse the emergency state measures to repress critical reporting, to change legislation and to reduce the access to information, or to criminalize free speech. We must be very clear: any emergency measures must comply with international human rights standards,” warned Guilherme Canela.

Securing a free and independent media and ensuring journalism without fear or favour are more than ever essential for democracy to survive. “We need to regain trust of the public in free, independent and pluralistic journalism, showing them that journalists can make the difference.” highlighted Guilherme Canela. At the occasion of World Press Freedom Day 2020, UNESCO released a preview of the new report ‘Reporting Facts: Free from Fear or Favour’, discussing the increased challenges to editorial independence.

Did you miss Difference Day 2020 or do you want to re-watch the interviews? The event is now fully available on the website: www.differenceday.com