Celebrating our journalists, our freedom

Today we celebrate World Press Freedom Day. It’s a cause close to my own heart, given my background in journalism and career devoted to communications. Despite progress, journalists continue to face a multitude of threats, including censorship, intimidation, and physical attacks.

Many work in the fog of wars, and they risk their lives to uncover the truth.

Practicing journalism is made all the harder by our increasingly polluted information environment. Whether it’s COVID, the climate emergency or the war in Ukraine, bad actors exploit demand for information, reaching millions of people with false, misleading, or distorted content.

Some of these disinformation actors aim to create confusion and a state of information paralysis. Others are just exploiting public sympathies for financial gain. This barrage of lies aimed at warping our understanding makes it even harder for journalists to unearth and unveil the truth.

Nearly all journalists surveyed by PEN America recently said disinformation has a deep impact on their work. About half of the respondents felt frustrated or overwhelmed, while more than 40% felt they had lost the trust of a portion of their audience.

Shockingly, three out of five journalists surveyed said they had been threatened, harassed, trolled or catfished during their work, or were so concerned for their personal safety they followed security precautions on a daily basis. Women in particular are being targeted online and silenced.

Disinformation exacerbates society’s worst problems. It erodes trust, distorts public debate, and undermines our notions of objectivity and truth. It impoverishes the media landscape, making it less diverse. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called it “an existential risk to humanity.”

The problem is more severe in the digital realm. Digital platforms have proven themselves invaluable tools in our lives. They connect us when we are forced to distance, and they bring us close to events as they unfold in real time. They are the medium of information for most anyone who wants express views.

‘Citizen journalists’ can be a critical resource when they bear witness in places where media is missing. But is the journalists who deliver not just the view from the ground, but the wider context and the credibility of a trusted media outlet. They are an antidote to disinformation and hold people in power accountable.

So, on this World Press Freedom Day, I’d like to express my solidarity with journalists and media workers everywhere. Let’s never forget the sacrifices they make, day in, day out to deliver accurate and transparent information about the world we live in. We need them now more than ever.

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Chief Communicator #UnitedNations promoting a peaceful, sustainable, just & humane world. Author: A Hope More Powerful than the Sea. Podcast: Awake at Night.

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Melissa Fleming

Melissa Fleming

Chief Communicator #UnitedNations promoting a peaceful, sustainable, just & humane world. Author: A Hope More Powerful than the Sea. Podcast: Awake at Night.

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