World Press Freedom Day
In a country where we are free to express ourselves and our thoughts — where good ideas are rewarded, troubling facts exposed, and differing opinions celebrated and reconciled — we must remember that this fundamental right is not ensured to all. World Press Freedom Day is not only a day to celebrate such liberties, it is a reminder that our efforts to raise awareness of international press freedom are far from over.
Freedom of the press is a fundamental part of any thriving democracy. Ensuring the free flow of information and access to uncensored information must be a key pillar of America’s global human rights agenda. People, societies, economies and entire nations benefit when constructive criticism is encouraged as a means to achieve progress. Yet despite technological advances of the 21st century that make communication and expression easier than ever, there are many who remain bound to repressive and overreaching governments that limit such rights.
As the son of Cuban exiles, I understand the harsh realities of a country that does not allow its citizens access to a free media, censoring what they read and, ultimately, what they think. These nations are left in the dark, a world of knowledge and opportunity lost at the hands of ignorance and fear. A government that denies a free press only chains its people to a false sense of security.
According to Freedom House, global press freedom fell to its lowest level in over a decade last year. Cuba remains the most oppressive in the Americas, while China continues to be the home of the world’s most sophisticated censorship apparatus, increasing its pressure against foreign media by threatening or denying visas for members of the foreign press corps.
And as the Maduro regime continues to respond to peaceful demonstrations with violent oppression on the streets of Venezuela, it has become increasingly clear that America must stand always on the side of freedom and democracy, supporting the efforts of those who risk their lives to speak out and demand such rights.
Today is also a day to celebrate journalistic integrity as we recognize journalists for the essential role they play in promoting government accountability, defending democratic activity and strengthening civil society. We also commemorate the many journalists who have lost their lives carrying out their noble work.
Today, we call for a vibrant and active free press, as we work to leave behind a world for our children and grandchildren where all are free to read and write and speak as they please — a world that embraces a free press, and with it, free minds.