Commonwealth World Press Freedom Day Message

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In defence of a free press

Today, 3 May 2014, is a day to recognise the essential contribution of journalists and journalism to national and international efforts to achieve peace, democracy and diversity.

A free and responsible media is the foundation of any successful nation, and a precursor for social and economic progress and sustainable development. Social and economic development, science and technology, innovation and entrepreneurship, all of these rely on the ideas and new ways of working brought to us by an independent media.

Good governance and media freedom are not mutually exclusive principles, rather they are ‘mutually dependent’. Only when journalists are given the space to operate freely – to observe, ask questions and report, without fear of arbitrary reprisal – can a nation be confident that decision-makers will be held to the highest standards.

Just as democratic institutions rely on the Third Sector, composed of charities and NGOs who defend the rights of minority groups, so too do they depend on a responsible, ethically-minded Fourth Estate, made up of well-trained, fair-minded and professional journalists.

At times of war, unrest and disaster, journalists are often the first to risk their lives to provide vital information and identify where humanitarian aid is needed most.

In times of peace, journalists act as messengers, educators and advocates, putting the people’s concerns to the powerful and allowing voters to make informed decisions about who should represent them in office.

The democratic and development dividend created by a free and responsible media is highest when we respect and value the contribution that journalists make.

Commonwealth leaders have consistently reaffirmed their commitment to freedom of the media, as a guarantor of freedom of expression. At the Commonwealth Secretariat, we continue to work with member states to help them make good on their collective commitments.

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