By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
NEW YORK/BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – The United Nations observed the annual World Press Freedom Day amid warnings that press freedom is under attack globally after the deadliest year for journalists on record.
Some 86 journalists and media workers were killed last year, mainly outside war zones, accusing to U.N. cultural agency UNESCO.
“Freedom of the press is the foundation of democracy and justice,” said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres in Wednesday’s commemoration video address. “It gives all of us the facts we need to shape opinions and speak truth to power. But in every corner of the world, freedom of the press is under attack.”
U.S. President Joe Biden echoed the secretary-general’s sentiments saying the United States stands behind the freedom of all journalists, “American or not.”
“Courageous journalists around the world have shown time and again that they will not be silenced or intimidated. The United States sees them and stands with them,” the president said in a statement.
“That’s why we’re providing more resources than ever to support digital and physical security training for journalists — because no reporter should fear for his or her life because of the work they do.”
Director General Audrey Azoulay of UNESCO said many of those killed were at home with their family. “For the international community, it is first and foremost a question of combating the impunity that still surrounds crimes of which journalists are victims. Nearly nine out of ten murders of journalists going unpunished,” she stated.
Other journalists are detained, including Austin Tice, who has been held in Syria for nearly 11 years. More recently, 31-year-old Evan Gershkovich, The Wall Street Journal newspaper journalist, was detained in Russia on controversial charges of “espionage.”
Gershkovich, the first U.S. correspondent to be arrested on spying accusations since the end of the Cold War, has been behind bars since March and could face up to 20 years imprisonment if convicted. Besides them, many journalists are imprisoned worldwide.
Azoulay noted that the increase in hatred and violence toward journalists coincides with the rise of a digital era that has transformed the information landscape. A 2021 report revealed that 3 in every four female journalists have been victims of online harassment.
While the internet has opened more avenues for information and expression, it’s also provided new channels for misinformation and violence.
“We find ourselves at a new crossroads,” Azoulay said. “Our current path is leading us away from public debates. Away from the very notion of a shared reality on which it depends. A path towards ever more polarization.”
She called for more effective regulations on digital platforms to protect the press and ensure that information can remain a public good.
There have also been significant changes in how people consume news. A 2022 poll shows the favorite news source for Gen Z is social media — with 50 percent reporting daily use.
Network and cable TV news came in fifth and sixth place, while newspapers were the least likely news source for the younger generation.
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