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Honoring World Press Freedom Day

May 3, 2016 | Blog

On this World Press Freedom Day, we pay tribute to those journalists who have lost their lives and are unjustly imprisioned while following their passion to expose the truth. In a country where we are free to express ourselves and our thoughts, we must remember that this fundamental human right isn’t guaranteed to all.

Freedom of the press is a prerequisite for any flourishing democracy. The free flow of information and access to uncensored material serves as a check against censorship by the government. By nurturing and protecting this fundamental right, free peoples achieve democratic improvements in their societies.

Unfortunately, all around the world there are governments that continue to violate press freedom. In these nations, journalists, bloggers, and non-violent critics have been imprisoned and even murdered while attempting to report the truth.

According to Freedom House, press freedom declined to its lowest point in the last 12 years in 2015.  Only 13 percent of the world’s population enjoys free press, while 46 percent live in “Not Free” press environments. Cuba, the country my parents left in 1956, remains the most repressive in the Americas, falling into the category of “Worst of the Worst.” North Korea ranks number one for most repressive press freedom conditions.

Americans are truly blessed to live in a country in which freedom of speech is not only our right, but our first amendment. This blessing also comes with responsibility. We have a duty to stand up for those around the world who continue to have their right to free speech and expression violated.

That is why my office launched the social media campaign #expressionNOToppression. Each week we highlight a political prisoner who is being persecuted for exercising their freedoms. We have highlighted political prisoners from China to Azerbaijan, and Cuba to Bahrain who have been detained, harassed, or even killed. Furthermore, I am the lead Republican sponsor of S. Res. 207, which recognizes World Press Freedom Day and reaffirms that freedom of expression and of the press is a top priority for the United States when promoting democracy and good governance overseas. I am proud to stand on the international stage to promote freedom of expression abroad and call on governments to free the innocent civilians whose only “crimes” were to expose harsh realities. 

Today our nation stands with those who fight against oppression to inform the public of the facts, and we continue to work toward our goal of creating a global media environment with less fear and more freedom.