World Press Freedom Day 2020: Celebrating courageous journalists
Human Rights, 03/05/2020
Today, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, the Right Livelihood Foundation reiterates that a free and independent press is key for any well-functioning democracy. It contributes to everyone’s right to information and acts as a watchdog to make sure that governments respect the rule of law and fundamental freedoms.
Last week, Reporters without Borders presented the 2020 edition of their Press Freedom Index, which shows that the coming decade will be decisive for the future of journalism worldwide. The number of safe countries for journalists to work in continues to decline. At the same time, there is a growing number of challenges threatening journalism, from a democratic crisis with a rise in authoritarian and populist governments to a crisis of trust, partly due to the “Fake News” phenomenon.
Today, press freedom is being further eroded by the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Around the world, journalists are being sanctioned for critically reporting on national policies, as laws are being amended to restrict fundamental freedoms. For example, in Italy, some reporters have been prevented from attending press conferences to obtain information from health authorities, while journalists in Russia can now face up to five years of prison for “spreading false information.” While there is no doubt that this is a challenging time for governments, this crisis should not be used to clamp down on freedom of expression and information, a fundamental right enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is of utmost importance that journalists are able to operate in safe conditions and without fear of reprisals. Journalism is a service for the public good, and it must be protected.
It is in this context that today we celebrate those Right Livelihood Award Laureates who have been reporting “without fear or favour” to fulfil citizens’ right to information, despite facing reprisals and intimidation by their governments:
Khadija Ismayilova (2017 Laureate) is Azerbaijan’s most outstanding contemporary investigative journalist. She has shown courage and tenacity in exposing corruption at the highest levels of government through her investigative journalism in the name of transparency and accountability. For publishing articles on government corruption, Ismayilova has been subjected to smear campaigns, harassment and spent one and a half years in prison based on fabricated criminal charges. Despite all of this, she has refused to be silenced and continues to write. In a recent interview with the Right Livelihood Foundation, she warned of the worrying situation facing journalists and members of the opposition in Azerbaijan amidst the COVID-19 crisis. >> Read her full interview
The Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet (2016 Laureate) has been committed to upholding the principles of freedom of the press against all odds. Throughout the years, its staff has taken immense personal risks and have suffered assassinations and imprisonment to remain outspoken in reporting on issues of human rights, gender equality, secularism and protection of the environment. To this day, 13 of the newspaper’s former staff members remain in prison. While we deplore the paper’s hijacking by loyalists of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2018, we stand by all its former staff members who continue to fight for independent journalism in the country.
US journalist Amy Goodman (2008 Laureate) developed “Democracy Now!” which is the largest public media collaboration in the US, seeking to give a voice to the voiceless. Hers is a model of truly independent political journalism, which brings visibility to millions of people whose views are often not presented by mainstream media.