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UNGA President invokes Gandhi to call for protection of journalists

UN General Assembly President Dennis Francis urged member states to uphold the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi by safeguarding press freedom and protecting journalists and media workers worldwide. Speaking on World Press Freedom Day, commemorated on May 3, Francis emphasized that attacks on press freedom undermine democracy and imperil societal well-being in the face of misinformation, disinformation, and environmental challenges.

Quoting Mahatma Gandhi’s assertion that “freedom of the press is a precious privilege that no country can forego,” Francis underscored the imperative of defending journalists and media workers globally. As the President of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly, he highlighted press freedom as intrinsic to the right to freedom of expression, affirming the autonomy of journalists and media outlets to report news impartially and independently, free from censorship or intimidation.

Expressing deep concern, Francis acknowledged the escalating threats faced by journalists and media workers worldwide, including abduction, torture, arbitrary detention, and fatalities resulting from conflict or deliberate targeting by state authorities. He called for collective remembrance of those who have sacrificed their lives in service to journalism and urged renewed commitments to their protection, stressing the importance of inclusive media coverage to inform and educate society, particularly on pressing environmental issues.

Francis urged member states to prioritize the defense of freedom of expression, advocating for robust measures to safeguard journalists and media workers and to combat impunity for attacks against them. He emphasized the fundamental role of accountability in upholding democratic values globally, emphasizing the need to hold perpetrators accountable for assaults and harassment directed at journalists and media personnel.

In the current era marked by the proliferation of misinformation and disinformation, Francis reiterated the indispensable role of a free and independent media, asserting that society relies on their integrity, expertise, and autonomy more than ever before. He called upon nations to champion press freedom as a cornerstone of democracy and to collaborate in ensuring a safe and enabling environment for journalists and media workers worldwide.

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