Header image for news printout

Human Rights Day 2021

Message from Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, for broadcast by Al Jazeera

10 December 2021

Media freedoms are a fundamental cornerstone of our universal human rights.

Everyone has a right to freedom of information, freedom of expression and freedom of opinion.

These rights also empower us to demand, and access, our rights in every domain of public and private life – from the right to participate fully and freely in decisions; to the rights to decent work and housing; to the best possible standard of health; to education of quality; and to live free of any form of discrimination.

Sound, independent and diverse media are also crucial to ensuring that government is transparent, accountable and responsive to people's concerns.

At times of crisis – such as the pandemic – they are literally life-saving.

But these past two years have seen media freedom, and journalists all over the world, targeted by crackdowns and attacks.

Media organisations have been subjected to undue restrictions, and even closed down based on vague and arbitrary laws and policies.

Many media workers have been subjected to harassment, intimidation, arbitrary detention and violent attacks – including killings – because of the work they do to inform us all.

Frequently, these crimes have not been adequately investigated. Such impunity not only has a chilling effect on journalism – it fuels further crimes.

This impacts all of us.

Independent media of quality are essential to social harmony, sustainable development, justice and peace.

We cannot combat and recover from the pandemic with better systems unless we benefit from the clarity that sound journalism delivers.

This year's Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the Filipina and Russian journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov, in recognition of this essential work. I congratulate them, and all those who work for freedom of expression.

Standing up for human rights means standing up for media freedom – now and in the future.