Upholding Press Freedom: A Pillar of Democratic Societies


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Op-Ed by U.S. Ambassador to Romania Kathleen Kavalec

May 3, 2024

World Press Freedom Day is a chance to recognize and thank journalists, editors, media outlets, factcheckers, writers, photojournalists, and others for the critically important work they do advancing democratic values and exposing disinformation. Globally free and independent journalism safeguards democratic values and fosters informed societies. Today however, the work of a free press is challenged, as audiences are increasingly faced with false narratives and disinformation.

In 2024, more voters than ever in history will head to the polls in national elections in 64 countries as well as the European Union, encompassing nearly 50 percent of the global population. The results of these elections will prove consequential for years to come. How citizens learn about local, national, and global issues, and how disinformation and bad actors seek to take advantage of the information space is more critical than ever.  Journalists play a key role in ensuring accountability of governments and institutions and in providing citizens with essential information for informed decision-making.

Press freedom is vital. Journalists investigate, report, and analyze public interest issues. Their work empowers citizens to engage in meaningful debates, shapes public discourse, and promotes transparency. However, obstacles to press freedom remain and the digital era has brought forth new challenges.

Purveyors of disinformation, false narratives, misinformation, and propaganda seek to manipulate our open and democratic system for personal gain. As in many democracies, the United States has seen attempts by foreign governments and other malign actors to mislead our public, spread false narratives of global events, and undermine democratic systems. Along with other Western democracies, Romania plays an important role in addressing these global challenges. Romanian journalists are among those who have courageously reported the facts and tragic consequences of Russia’s unjust and illegal war against Ukraine.

These are tough challenges, but we know there are also solutions, which require working together. Journalists, educators, NGOs, and governments work to increase media literacy and critical thinking and bolster resilience against manipulation. Journalists must strive to uphold ethical stands and journalistic integrity. Factchecking organizations can expose false narratives, disinformation and altered images.

On this World Press Freedom Day, let us renew our commitment to defending and promoting journalistic freedom. Not only to ensure that our citizens are informed, but also to foster a future based on truth, on democratic values, and on transparent information. Press freedom is not just a right—it is a shared responsibility; we must all do our part.

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