Press freedom must not be taken for granted – World Press Freedom Day is celebrated on 3 May

3.5.2021 klo 08:00


The World Press Freedom Day on 3 May reminds us about how important free media is for democracy and the rule of law. According to the World Press Freedom Index, the situation has deteriorated alarmingly in different parts of the world – including Europe. Free media should not be taken for granted anywhere.

The World Press Freedom Day on 3 May reminds us about how important free media is for democracy and the rule of law. According to the World Press Freedom Index, the situation has deteriorated alarmingly in different parts of the world – including Europe. Free media should not be taken for granted anywhere.

On 3 May 1991, the Windhoek Declaration was adopted in Windhoek, Namibia. It emphasises the importance of free and pluralistic media. Two years later, following UNESCO’s recommendation, the day on which the Windhoek Declaration was adopted was proclaimed a theme day honouring press freedom by the UN General Assembly. This year, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Declaration.

On the World Press Freedom Day 2021, UNESCO wants to highlight three key factors to secure the operating environment of media:

  • the economic viability of news media must be ensured
  • the transparency of large internet companies must be increased with different mechanisms and
  • media and information literacy must be improved so that people recognise the value of media and can defend and demand journalism so that access to information is secured. 

In the World Press Freedom Index published by Journalists Without Borders (RSF, Reporters sans frontières) on 20 April, the Nordic countries still hold the top places. Finland ranks second in the list for the second year running. However, the press freedom situation has deteriorated across the world. The situation has also deteriorated alarmingly in Europe, as only 12 European states can now be found among the best countries. For example, Germany fell two places, now ranking 13th in the index because of repeated attacks on journalists during the pandemic.

Journalists Without Borders reminds us that although Europe still has the best freedom of speech situation globally, the spread of misleading and false information and its negative impacts on journalists have increased at an alarming rate.

The Council of Europe's report on security and protection of journalists in 2021 raises as one of its concerns the emergency laws introduced by many European countries during the COVID-19 pandemic. Regulation has been used to restrict media activity. In 2020, the Council of Europe’s Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists received 40 percent more alerts about threats faced by journalists than a year earlier.

The press freedom situation in Finland is still good, but the concerning developments around the world remind us not to take press freedom for granted. Just like everyone else, we must actively look after the free and pluralistic media.

The Human Rights Centre’s task is to defend fundamental and human rights and the rule of law in all of its activities. It systematically monitors the issues related to the rule of law and annually reports on the rule of law situation in Finland to the European Commission. One of the themes examined is the freedom and pluralism of media.

 

Read more:

World Press Freedom Day on the UNESCO website: https://en.unesco.org/commemorations/worldpressfreedomday

Windhoek Declaration: https://en.unesco.org/news/30th-anniversary-windhoek-declaration

Press release of Journalists Without Borders (in Finnish): https://www.toimittajatilmanrajoja.fi/post/v%C3%A4kivalta-toimittajia-kohtaan-kaksinkertaistui-euroopassa-pohjoismaat-journalismin-harvoja-mallima

Annual Report by the partner organisations to the Council of Europe Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists: https://rm.coe.int/final-version-annual-report-2021-en-wanted-real-action-for-media-freed/1680a2440e

Blog: The dark side of the media situation (in Finnish): http://ihmisoikeuskeskus.blogspot.com/2020/09/median-nurja-puoli.html