Free, independent journalism, our greatest ally in combating misinformation – UN

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The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged governments across the globe to do everything in their power to support a free, independent and diverse media as a way of combating misinformation and disinformation.

The UN Scribe gave the charge in a message to commemorate this year’s World Press Freedom Day which comes with a theme: “Information as a Public Good”.

He said the current global challenges occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, underline the critical role of reliable, verified and universally accessible information in saving lives and building stronger and resilient societies.

He said during the pandemic and other crises including climate emergency, journalists and media workers assist people to navigate a fast-changing and overwhelming landscape of information, while addressing dangerous inaccuracies and falsehoods.

“In too many countries, they (Journalists) run great personal risks including new restrictions, censorship, abuse, harassment, detention and even deaths, simply for doing their jobs. The situation continues to worsen”, Guterres noted.

The UN Secretary-General further explained that the economic impact of the pandemic has hit many media outlets hard, threatening their survival. “As budgets tighten, so too does access to reliable information. Rumours, falsehood, extreme or divisive opinions surge in to fill the gap”.

He stressed that the United Nations plan of action on the safety of journalists aims to create a safe environment for media workers across the globe, as information is a public good.

“Today, we commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Windhoek declaration for the development of a free, independent and pluralistic African Press.

“Despite dramatic changes in the media over the past three decades, the declaration’s urgent call for press freedom and free access to information is as relevant as ever.

“Let’s reflect on its message, and renew our efforts to protect media freedom – so that information remains a lifesaving public good for all”, he urged.

The World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1993 following the recommendation of UNESCO’s General Conference.

Since then, the 3rd day of every May, the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek is celebrated worldwide as the World Press Freedom Day.

Free, independent journalism, our greatest ally in combating misinformation – UN

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