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Statements and speeches Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

World Press Freedom Day: journalists the “ultimate allies in human rights”

03 May 2024

Delivered by

Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights



When I think of the values of journalism, I think of trust, truth and integrity. 

I think of the countless, fearless individuals daring to question.

Daring to challenge power, risking their lives to document atrocities, corruption and crime, and to stand up against oppression.

2023 marked one more devastating year for journalism.

71 journalists and media workers were killed.

It was a year characterised - again - by impunity. Only 13% of the murder cases have been investigated. 

And 320 journalists and media workers were imprisoned, the highest number ever. 

When we lose a journalist, we lose our eyes and ears to the outside world. We lose a voice for the voiceless. 

We lose, in fact, a human rights defender.

World Press Freedom Day was established to celebrate the value of truth and to protect the people who work courageously to uncover it.

We are marking it this year in an era of acute global turmoil and the profound fragmentation and polarisation of humanity. 

Conflict is boiling over in many places - from Myanmar, to Sudan, Ukraine, Gaza and several other parts of the world - causing intolerable human suffering.

Disinformation is infecting our media and digital landscapes, fuelling hate and division. 

And as climate change batters our fragile planet, the lives and livelihoods of future generations are under the gravest threat this world has ever known.

This year, World Press Freedom Day centres on journalism in the face of the environmental crisis.  

I honour the journalists around the world who are working to hold polluters accountable for the damage and the devastation. 

They are driving open debate and critical thinking. 

And by separating facts from lies and propaganda, they are pushing for evidence-based policy decisions on the climate crisis that the world so urgently needs.

Their work is fundamental to trigger change, yet it can also be dangerous. 

Particularly if they are perceived to hamper the economic interests of the powerful actors engaged in harmful or illegal environmental activities. 

Environmental journalists need stronger commitments from their governments and their employers to protect them.  

Better and safer working conditions. 

An expanded media space for coverage on environmental issues.

And the right to work free from attacks, hate campaigns, and physical and legal harassment. 

The dramatic consequences of inertia and inaction on the climate crisis are unfolding as we speak. 

This doesn’t have to be the case.

We need independent, ethical and quality journalism perhaps now more than ever. On the climate crisis – and on all crises - journalists serve as the ultimate allies in human rights. Because in their pursuit of facts, evidence and accountability, we have one of our best hopes to build societies based on truth and trust.