Today is May 3, designated by the United Nations as the annual “World Press Freedom Day.” The symbolic date is a reminder to all governments of the need to respect our commitments to press freedom and also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics.
The United States has a vital stake in promoting a free press and the larger right to freedom of expression both at home and around the world. We do this because the free flow of information and ideas are cornerstones for a healthy and prosperous democracy. A free press is also one of the most effective tools we have to protect human rights, actively shining light into parts of society that need reform.
The work of a free press, providing unbiased information, is crucial to every decision citizens make about the future of their communities. Reporters and editors help us understand the world we live in and give us the information we need to engage meaningfully in civil society and in government.
While we understand that press freedom is vital to transparency and democracy, the ideal of a free press faces threats around the world, with a record number of journalists killed and jailed this past year for simply doing their job, and countless others threatened, harassed, and pressured. Even journalists not working in deadly conflict zones, like those brave journalists covering the war in Ukraine, can find themselves in the crosshairs of criminal organizations or corrupt regimes who do not shy away from using violence, threats, intimidation, or economic blackmail to suppress critical reporting. And when journalists are threatened, that has a chilling effect on others who begin to self-censor their reports to avoid trouble. Attacks on press freedom are attacks on good governance, civil society, and prosperity for all of us.
The journalists and media representatives I have met in Suriname clearly love their country and want the best for it and all of its people. They are unsung heroes who face challenges every day in their journey to present the objective truth to the people of Suriname. With curiosity, courage, and dogged determination, they are doing their part to make Suriname a better place for all Surinamers.
That is why we must continue to stand and support a free and independent media, this “World Press Freedom Day” and, indeed, everyday.