Geneva, 3 May 2019
Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation
In 1991, the African journalists produced the landmark Windhoek Declaration calling for on media pluralism and independence. In response to that UNESCO’s General Conference adopted the Recommendation and following that the UN General Assembly proclaimed the World Press Freedom Day in 1993. This day commemorates the right to freedom of opinion and expression with the aim to promote free and independent media as well as to honor commitment of journalists who are continuously persecuted around the world and oftentimes loose their lives whilst exercising their profession.
In 2019, the 26th celebration is dedicated to the current challenges that media faces in elections and its potential in supporting peace and reconciliation. According to the 2019 edition of the World Press Freedom Index the number of countries considered safe, where journalists can safely exercise their profession, continues to shrink, while authoritarian regimes reinforce their grip on the media. Reporters Without Borders that annually assess the state of journalism in 180 countries state the hostility against journalists, and even the hatred relayed in many countries by political leaders, has resulted in more serious and frequent acts of violence, which lead to increased dangers and as a result a new level of fear in some places.
Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties is seriously concerned that the prosecution and trial on Khashoggi case are not conducted in compliance with international standards. Saudi Arabia holds closed-door trials of those accused in killing journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The journalist of Washington Post, Mr. Khashoggi, Saudi dissident, was arbitrarily killed in Saudi consulate office in Istanbul on 2 October 2018.
Moreover, threats and violence against journalists under fire seriously increased in recent years. Killing, persecution and threats made to journalists remain widespread and systematic in areas of armed conflict. Journalists reporting about the situation of the Rohingya Muslim ethnic minority facing genocide, religious intolerance and violations by the military forces, are continuously intimidated, jailed and attacked. Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties is concerned by the rejection of the appeal by the Myanmar supreme court on case of two Reuters reporters in April this year. Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, are sentenced to seven years in jail for breaking the Official Secrets Act. They have spent more than 16 months in detention since they were arrested in December 2017 while working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys.
On World Press Freedom Day, we call on states to respect, to promote and ensure right to freedom of opinion and expression. We insist that the states immediately stop persecution of journalists, ensure investigation, trial and remedy for violated human rights in exercise of their profession.
2019 World Press Freedom Index – A cycle of fear