Time to mark press freedom - if you still can

If you can report freely - and it's clearly getting harder - there's a reason to mark UNESCO's 2020 World Press Freedom Day, "a moment for journalism".

WAN-Ifra chief executive Vincent Peyrègne says good journalism is made for times such as these. "Good journalists have ensured our leaders remain accountable, their policies are scrutinised, and their promises will be kept in check as we navigate the coming months and a cautious return to optimism.

"To mark World Press Freedom Day on May 3, we must celebrate this, recognise the sacrifices of media professionals who ensure the daily free flow of information, and hope that independent media can financially survive to help lead us into better times."

During a crisis, journalism is arguably more vital than ever, and Peyrègne says the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly placed independent media front and centre in providing verified, accurate and potentially life-saving information, particularly in countries where government has floundered, or the COVID-19 response has been found wanting.

"But to say we need journalism now more than ever masks a reality worth reiterating loud and clear - especially as we celebrate World Press Freedom Day. Independent journalism is vital, day in, day out, for everyone. Whether we are facing global catastrophe or exposing local concerns, media's public interest role is essential to how we understand our world and make decisions in it.

"At this critical time, journalists and media professionals need our support. The measures taken in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic have accentuated the financial precarity of media worldwide, risking the survival of independent journalism and challenging the safety and economic security of media professionals.

"It remains to be seen what will survive of our profession - the profession as we know it today - once this crisis has passed. The landscape may look very different; the way we gather, produce and consume the news likewise. Despite the painful, inevitable turmoil this will bring, we must embrace the opportunities that arise, the new ways of working, doing business, and our relationship with the world and people around us.

"But one thing is certain to prevail, regardless of how different, how difficult the future looks: The very soul of our profession, our ability to conduct journalism - without fear or favour.

• UNESCO is providing campaign materials that are free to use to help mark World Press Freedom Day. Visual materials are ready to download in six languages, include logos, banners and posters.

There are also key and social media messages available to share.

Follow @UNESCO on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for a series of cartoons, to be launched today, from Cartooning for Peace, reflecting on press freedom in times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the build-up to next Sunday, there will be more communications material including an op-ed by the director-general of UNESCO and a joint video message with the UN secretary-general.

Several online celebrations are planned including a Facebook Live High-level Dialogue on Press Freedom and Tackling Disinformation in the COVID-19 context and a Webinar on Media Freedom, Safety of Journalists and COVID-19.

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