In a video message published on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, called on participating States throughout the OSCE region to let journalists work without fear or favour, especially in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Let journalists do their job unhindered, ensure them access to information and support those media that are financially struggling because of the pandemic,” the Representative said.
“As the world finds itself in the midst of a global pandemic, the necessity of a free media is even more vital and more crucial than ever. Crucial in the sense of providing us with reliable information about the health situation and informing us on a daily basis about governmental decisions and health measures. Our health depends not only on readily accessible health care, but also on access to accurate information about the pandemic, its evolution, and ways of protecting ourselves and others.
The media also have a key role to play in combating the spread of false information.
Yet, we have seen many States responding to this crisis with measures that are restricting media freedom and limiting the ability of journalists to report on the pandemic.
I fully understand the will of the authorities to combat false information, such as about false cures. However, this cannot be achieved by limiting media freedom. Rumours are best tackled by ensuring access to pluralistic and independent sources of information, rather than through censorship.
What we need is more transparency, more responsibility and more journalists being free to report, not more restrictions.
I appeal to the authorities throughout the OSCE region: please, let journalists do their job unhindered, ensure them access to information and support those media that are financially struggling because of the pandemic.
The theme of the 2020 World Press Freedom Day is journalism without fear or favour. Especially in the current situation, let journalists work without fear or favour.
Freedom of the media is a pillar of our democracy. The free flow of information is a vital need of all citizens. This is even more crucial when the world is struck by a crisis such as the one we are all currently facing.
So, let me use this occasion to call again on all governments to not only recognize, but to facilitate and support the work of free and independent journalists.”