Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
The United Nations affirms that media freedom and access to information is fundamental in preserving democracy and empowering people. "This can only be achieved," the UN states, "through access to accurate, fair and unbiased information."
Journalists in Canada are working around the world mentoring reporters in other countries where it takes tremendous courage to expose the truth. These trainees have exposed situations like a hospital illegally dumping toxic waste, a government withholding funds from the disabled community, information separating medical facts from myth during an Ebola outbreak, along with sparking an investigation into missing funds for girls' education.
Their reporting raised awareness of issues previously unknown or not talked about, and it has resulted in changes in practice and policy after the stories were reported. Some of these young journalists went on to receive awards for the work they had done shining a light on issues some companies and governments would have preferred remained unseen.
Many journalists work in difficult places under threatening circumstances and are exposed to violence and harassment. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, "I am deeply troubled by the growing number of attacks and the culture of impunity." According to UNESCO, almost 100 journalists were killed in 2018. Hundreds are imprisoned. "When media workers are targeted," Guterres cautioned, "societies as a whole pay a price."
Yet the work advances. Questions are asked, stories are reported, and the truth is told. It must continue. In some countries, citizens are seeing for the first time the importance of a free press in coverage of stories that have previously been kept quiet. In other places people are keeping a tenuous hold on what they have, knowing that unless it is fought for, a non-partisan press will be gone. Democracy requires access to open and accurate information and is something that, if taken for granted, will be lost.
May 3, World Press Freedom Day, we join with media professionals all over the world in honoring those who are committed to the hallmarks of journalism; asking who, where, when, what, why and how. They are keeping citizens informed and leaders accountable.