Message From Ms Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day.

This year’s World Press Freedom Day theme “journalism under digital siege spotlights the multiple ways in which journalism is endangered by surveillance and digitally-mediated attacks on journalists, and the consequences of all this on public trust in digital communications.

The latest UNESCO World Trends Report Insights discussion paper “Threats that Silence: Trends in the Safety of Journalists,” highlights how surveillance and hacking are compromising journalism. Surveillance can expose information gathered by journalists including from whistle-blowers, and violates the principle of source protection, which is universally considered a prerequisite for freedom of the media and is enshrined in UN Resolutions. Surveillance may also harm the safety of journalists by disclosing sensitive private information, which could be used for arbitrary judicial harassment or attack.

There is a growing global push encouraging more transparency regarding how Internet companies exploit citizens’ data; how that data informs predictive models and artificial intelligence, and enables amplification of disinformation and hatred. This was underlined in the Windhoek+30 Declaration call for technology companies to “work to ensure transparency in relation to their human and automated systems.”

From Her Letter ” Whether in the context of COVID-19 or during war and conflict, reliable information is more than necessary: it is vital. Journalists play an essential role in providing this information. they assess, investigate and disseminate facts, ensuring people can make informed decisions. Journalism is therefore a public good, which we must defend and support as much.

Yet even as the United nations marks the 10th anniversary of it’s plan of Action on the safety of Journalism and the issue Of Impunity, which, UNESCO is proud to lead. As our newest World Trends in Freedom Of expression and Media Development report shows, more than five in six people around the world live in a country that experienced a decline in press freedom over the past five years. Some 400 Journalist were killed during the same period just for doing their jobs.

Since then, UNESCO has been implementing the declaration by Promoting by new transparency principles for online platforms, undertaking research into sustainable media business models and putting a new focus on media and information literacy in education systems.

But we all must do well to address the risk and seize the opportunities of the digital age. On this world press Freedom Day, she invites all Member states, technology companies, the media community , as well as the rest of civil society to come together to develop a new digital configuration- one that protects both Journalism and Journalist.

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