Free press under attack on World Press Freedom Day

As people around the globe celebrate World Press Freedom Day today, May 3, one of the cornerstones of democracy is under threat in many countries.

May 03, 2023

A cornerstone of democracy is eroding. Freedom of press and free speech is under attack in many parts of the world. Just 12% of the countries assessed in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index have a "good" or "satisfactory" situation for journalists, while the remaining 88% are categorized as "problematic," "difficult," "very serious" or "critical." It is vital to promote and defend press freedom to maintain a free and open society.

Columbia University has been at the forefront of advocating for press freedom, including the Columbia Global Centers, which promotes free expression, media development and independent media outlets.

In the most recent example, Maria Ressa, the Nobel laureate and Filipina journalist known for her work to protect media freedom, will be the featured speaker at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs graduation ceremony on May 14, 2023. Ressa is the cofounder of Rappler, a Filipino news website that exposed corruption, human rights violations, and abuses in former President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

The centers collaborate with journalists, media organizations, and local communities to strengthen their capacity to report accurately, responsibly and safely.

Wafaa el-Sadr, executive vice president for Columbia Global, recently highlighted the importance of press freedom in promoting public health. She pointed out in a recent interview that journalists are on the frontlines of public health communication and their work is critical to disseminating accurate information during public health crises. Supporting the work of journalists and ensuring their safety is crucial to promote a free and independent press.

Global Centers in Istanbul, Amman, and Tunis have collaborated with media organizations to enhance their reporting skills and promote media development. The centers have also organized training workshops for journalists, media organizations and students to improve their capacity to report accurately and safely.

As we commemorate World Press Freedom Day, we urge our global societies to commit to defending the rights of journalists and promoting a free and independent press. A free press is essential for democracy, and it is our collective responsibility to protect and promote it.