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UNESCO Chief says when press freedom regresses all rights regress with it

Ahead of World Press Freedom Day, celebrated annually on 3 May, UNESCO’s Director-General, Audrey Azoulay said, when freedom of the press regresses “it is all the rights that do regress with it,” and “when there’s a regression, there’s a regression of the debates within society and they are undermined.”

Azulay said, “digital platforms have given us countless new ways for us to inform and express ourselves. But they’re also providing fertile ground for those who sow disinformation and conspiracy theories.”

She said, “we find ourselves at a new crossroads. Our current path is leading us away from informed public debates, away from the very notion of a shared reality on which it depends, a path towards ever more polarization.”

The UNESCO Chief said, “we need more than ever, professional, free, independent journalism, a press that deciphers discloses and decodes and it’s up to us collectively to ensure its continued existence.”

She called for greater action to ensure that information can remain a public good, noting that UNESCO is supporting some 20 countries to develop educational policies in media and information literacy in the digital era.

The agency also organized a major global conference in Paris in February to discuss draft global guidelines for regulating digital platforms, which will be published later this year.

A 2021 report revealed that three out of four women journalists have been the victim of online harassment, prompting UNESCO to issue recommendations for digital platforms to step up protection.

The focus this year is on the connection between press freedom and overall human rights.

Last year, 86 journalists were killed, mainly outside war zones.