As we mark World Press Freedom Day 2021, we celebrate the role of a free and independent press, which is as important as ever. Throughout the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, the press in Madagascar, Comoros, and around the world have continued to play a critical role in ensuring transparency, informing citizens, and fighting disinformation. A free and independent press plays a unique role during times of crisis, acting as a critical link between governments and the
publics they serve.
A free and independent press is also vital to building the public’s trust in government and conveying public concerns to authorities. The United States believes that government transparency and accountability are vital for an effective response to COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, we have observed governments around the world impose emergency declarations and laws to silence or harass members of the media, civil society, the opposition, or marginalized groups. We have seen authorities use defamation laws to restrict public discussion, prosecute journalists for criticizing the government’s performance, and pressure the media into self- censorship. We believe that government responses to the COVID- 19 pandemic must focus on promoting transparency and protecting public health.
We also believe that governments that support a free and open civil society, ensure the right to peaceful assembly and expression, and allow for peaceful and constructive disagreement, are more stable. Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is the foundation for peace, security, and inclusive economic growth.
On this World Press Freedom Day, we recommit to promoting and protecting a free press because the media play such an essential role in preserving democracy and in saving lives. The United States honors the work of journalists every day of the year, but especially today, World Press Freedom Day.