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Deutsche Welle 2020 Freedom of Speech award

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Honoring all journalists who have been disappeared, arrested or threatened because of their reporting on COVID-19

Video message by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

30 April 2020

Independent, evidence-based information is the lifeblood of society. Journalism enriches our understanding of every kind of political, economic and social issues and helps keep governance at all levels transparent, accountable and well-informed.

And this work by journalists is vital when we face the unprecedented, multi-faceted challenges of the COVID-19 epidemic.

Information saves lives. Journalism serves a crucial function at a time of public health emergency – informing the public and monitoring the authorities'responses.

Now, more than ever, we need information to flow, and people to have access to it.

Governments need information to make accurate decisions that respond to the realities on the ground.

The general public – all of us – need full and accurate information about the pandemic, and to be involved in the decisions that are being made on our behalf. Participating in those decisions increases people's understanding of, and compliance with, measures that are being taken.

It is shocking, in such a context, that journalists are being attacked, threatened, arrested, accused of spurious crimes and even disappeared because of their reporting about the pandemic.

These are attacks on media freedom, and attacks on the public's right to be informed.

I am also shocked by reprisals taken against health-workers who report on social media about the conditions they are working in, or their lack of adequate protection equipment. This information, too, is in the public interest.

On the contrary, every effort should be made to ensure that full information is gathered, and that it is made available to everyone.

Like you, I am here to honor the courage of the journalists who, despite such attacks, speak up and continue to investigate and report critically without fear.

I pay tribute to the courage of those who have been disappeared, arrested or threatened for their work.

My Office and the United Nations will continue to stand up for their rights.