Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy but it is facing increasing challenges that we must highlight. World Press Freedom Day – 3 May – offers an opportunity to highlight these challenges.
According to Reporters Without Borders, 80 journalists were killed in the line of duty in 2018. Hate speech and threats are on the rise and women journalists are particularly vulnerable. At a time when global insecurity is rising, the democratic space in many parts of the world is shrinking and human rights are being threatened – this is when fearless and courageous journalism is needed. And when practitioners of free speech are threatened, we must do everything we can to protect them.
Press freedom and the safety of journalists are clear Swedish foreign policy priorities. This applies bilaterally, multilaterally and in our development cooperation. Sweden is taking this issue forward in international bodies and has played an active role in placing and keeping a spotlight on the issue of press freedom in the United Nations (not least UNESCO), the EU, the OSCE and the Council of Europe.
Sweden is leading the work in the UN Human Rights Council on the resolution on human rights on the internet. This is the first agreed text establishing that human rights, not least freedom of expression, must be respected both online and offline. The most recent resolution was adopted by consensus in June 2018 and places particular emphasis on the safety of journalists.
Sweden supports a broad range of initiatives on press freedom and the safety of journalists. We are now the largest donor of voluntary contributions to UNESCO and Sweden’s new support totals more than SEK 800 million. This support goes to UNESCO initiatives on education, freedom of the press, freedom of expression and artistic freedom. Sweden also supports other areas of UNESCO’s activities. This is a clear demonstration of Sweden’s stance on press freedom.
Since 2015 Sweden has provided support to the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media for various projects to identify and combat the risks faced by female journalists online. One of its particularly successful projects is Safety of Female Journalists Online.
Sweden has also provided support to the Swedish Fojo Media Institute (FMI) to identify threats and hate speech against journalists online, and explore the possibility of establishing a support centre for journalists subjected to online hate.
In 2019 the Government is allocating additional funds to international development cooperation for efforts to strengthen democracy and press freedom, not least in Eastern European countries. Through these measures, we are helping to fight disinformation and improving opportunities for people in the countries concerned to access free and independent journalism.
These efforts and measures aim to protect and strengthen press freedom. World Press Freedom Day on 3 May serves as an opportunity to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom but also to draw attention to the challenges it faces – challenges that we must highlight every day.