Today we join the global community in celebrating World Press Freedom Day. This year marks the 25th World Press Freedom Day, under the theme of “Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice, and the Rule of Law.” On this important day, we want to celebrate the importance of a free press in keeping power in check; honor the journalists carrying out this vital and often dangerous work; and commit our continued support for protecting such freedom.
A free press has always been acknowledged as fundamental to democracy. Nelson Mandela put it bluntly when he said, “A critical, independent, and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy.” A free press ensures that citizens have the information necessary to make choices about the future of their country. As this year’s theme emphasizes, a free press serves as a vital check and balance on power. Without it corruption, human rights abuses, and repression can more easily flourish. Democracy requires citizens to be informed, and that is the job of a free press and robust civil society.
We also want to honor the many journalists around the world working every day, often in dangerous circumstances, to inform citizens. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, three of the four deadliest years for journalists since 1992 have taken place in the past six years. Since 2012, they report that an average of 60 journalists a year have been killed for their work. These brave men and women are dedicated to reporting on the activities of the powerful and also to telling the stories of the powerless. They give a voice to everyone in society, and we thank them for their hard work and dedication. Finally, we want to urge everyone – government, civil society, and citizens – to commit to working to ensure the freedom of the press. Many of our countries have supported the development of the media in South Sudan over the years and we know that this support is more important than ever today. Our work supports local actors, and so we hope that all sectors of South Sudanese society will join us today in demanding the freedom of the press. In South Sudan, like elsewhere, we will be specifically vigilant that no attempts to limit the freedom of the media, nor to attack the personal integrity of journalists, are committed.