The US denounced the use of government-imposed internet shutdowns to prohibit the exercise of online freedom of speech and urged governments to investigate and seek accountability for all crimes against journalists and media staff ahead of World Press Freedom Day.
“Tomorrow, the United States joins the international community in celebrating World Press Freedom Day,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a press release. Information and awareness are important tools, and a free and independent press is the central institution that connects citizens to the data they need to fight for themselves, make informed choices, and keep government officials accountable.
Blinken emphasised that the US supports press freedom both online and offline, as well as the protection of journalists and media workers around the world. He also addressed the ‘Khashoggi Ban,’ which was enacted in the aftermath of the murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, to help discourage threatening behaviour against the media.
According to a 2020 study by the Committee to Protect Journalists, Mexico and Afghanistan had the highest number of journalists killed in retaliation for their reporting, while China, Turkey, and Egypt detained the most journalists last year.
“Unfortunately, the pandemic has given repressive regimes with an excuse to increase their pressure on independent media.” In such a hostile atmosphere, freedom of speech, especially by members of the press, becomes even more important in alerting the public to violations and corruption, as well as combating dangerous misinformation and disinformation. We demand that all governments guarantee the protection of the media and secure journalists’ right to do their work without fear of abuse, intimidation, or arbitrary detention,” he said.
Blinken also expressed concern about governments’ intensified attempts to deny the public access to information and knowledge by restricting Internet access and censoring content, including the widespread use of network limitations – some lasting up to 18 months – that render independent reporting difficult for journalists.
Governments should not shut down, block, throttle, censor, or filter services, he said, because doing so undermines and unduly restricts the rights to peaceful assembly, association, and speech, disrupts access to critical services, and has a negative effect on the economy.
“The United States opposes the use of partial or full government-imposed Internet shutdowns, among other tactics, to limit the ability of independent journalists to represent the public and prohibit the exercise of freedom of speech online. We call on governments to prosecute all crimes against journalists and media staff and hold those responsible accountable “He made a remark.
“The US is committed to working in cooperation with representatives of the media, the private sector, non-governmental organisations, and other concerned governments to promote access to information and protect freedom of speech, as well as the courageous journalists who face threats, abuse, detention, and violence in exercising their rights,” Blinken added.