World Press Freedom Day reflects the status of press freedom globally, deriving from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Most importantly, it serves as a reminder of all the journalists who have lost their lives for our right to information whilst protecting one of the most vital pillars of our democracy, namely the truth.
It is with deep concern that we observe the state of media freedom in Europe. Alarmingly, the number of journalists imprisoned and killed for exercising their profession has been growing for years. The current healthcare crisis has given ground to several governments that wish to enhance their grip on the communication and information of the citizens. It serves as a pretext for emergency legislation that restricts fundamental freedoms, such as the freedom of information. In Hungary Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz government are now using the pandemic to mute the opposition with a new law that addresses what they consider “fake news”. The government can control journalists who do not provide information in a manner that is deemed “appropriate”. Similarly, state capture of media Poland threatens pluralist independent media and rings the bell towards all the other democracies that might be affected.
Investigative and independent journalism is a crucial watchdog that brings those in power accountable and ensures the implementation of the rule of law. Against the current forces of disinformation, professional and trustworthy journalism is essential to uphold the rights and freedoms of our democracies.
On behalf of the Party of the European Left, we commemorate those who have lost their lives and have endured censorship, online intimidation, harassment, kidnappings, arbitrary detention, torture, and political and economic pressure. Today we celebrate freedom of press and freedom of expression by committing to recognise their actions and pay tribute to their sacrifice.
Let us not forget that there is no democracy without press and media freedom.
Heinz Bierbaum, President of the European Left