Islamabad, 5th May 2020
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the European Union Delegation to Pakistan, the Embassies of the Netherlands, and Sweden, and Media Matters for Democracy joined hands together with 8 other European Embassies to celebrate the World Press Freedom Day today. They stand together for press freedom today and every day and they invite others to join.
Every year on May 3, the World Press Freedom Day is celebrated to highlight the importance of freedom of the press. This year the theme is “Journalism without fear and favour.” Today, the European Union Delegation to Pakistan (EU), UNESCO, the Dutch and Swedish missions organised a webinar with representatives from different media organizations and the government. The session was arranged and hosted in collaboration with Media Matters for Democracy and explored risks posed by the spread of COVID-19 misinformation and how news media is responding to the demand for accurate information on health crisis, coverage of corona crisis from remote areas and challenges to accessing information by journalists, and how free freedom in Pakistan is affected by this pandemic.
Apart from the webinar, all partners will also use social media platforms to stress the need for free and independent journalism to cope with the corona pandemic. In a joint video message, the ambassador of European Union to Pakistan, and several EU members states such as the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, Czech Republic, Poland, and Romania together with the UNESCO Country Representative underline the value of free press in a democratic society and urged others to join. The aim of the social media message is to shine a spotlight on standing together and emphasise the need for journalism free of fear and favour now more than ever.
EU Ambassador Androulla Kaminara is of the view that press freedom is a vital and necessary part of any democracy, while Dutch Ambassador Wouter Plomp says media workers should be able to report independently and without any fear as the world needs a free press now more than ever. Swedish Ambassador Ingrid Johansson thinks a free and independent media serves as oxygen in a democratic society, and UNESCO Country Representative Patricia McPhillips says media freedom and quality journalism are vital to build trust and limit the surge of rumors and misinformation in a pandemic situation the world is faced with.
Sadaf Khan, the co-founder of Media Matters for Democracy, on the occasion, said, “Today, we are faced with a global crisis, that demonstrates the crucial need for authentic information. We have seen the devastating public impact of withholding important information before, during the SARS crisis and now that impact is more and more evident every day. Withholding information from the public today, whether, by intimidating journalists or obstructing access to data and statistics, both can potentially cost lives. This is why we continue to work for a free press and independent media.”