The U.S. Embassy celebrates World Press Freedom Day today, May 3, because an independent media is an essential pillar of responsive and accountable democracies. Journalism plays a crucial role in combatting corruption, drawing attention to human rights abuses, and providing the public with accurate information.
On May 3, 1991, a group of African journalists and media professionals attending a conference in Namibia issued the Windhoek Declaration for the Development of a Free, Independent and Pluralistic Press, which established fundamental press freedom principles (read more: https://www.un.org/en/observances/press-freedom-day). World Press Freedom Day was born, and now 30 years later, these principles and the importance of press independence are as relevant as ever. Freedom of expression remains under threat in many parts of the world as authoritarian regimes use intimidation of the media and internet shutdowns, among other tactics, to prevent criticism, accountability, and transparency.
Fortunately, there are many vibrant press and media organizations—from print to radio to online—as well as dedicated reporters in Liberia. As we celebrate their essential contribution to Liberia’s democracy, we also remind journalists here and everywhere to stay true to journalism ethics. Accurate, clear, and fair reporting that seeks to inform the public should be the standard. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility. Without credibility, media cannot contribute to a healthy democracy and will instead prompt societal distrust and the spread of misinformation.
The United States is proud to be one of the 32 governments that are working together to advance Internet freedom as part of the Freedom Online Coalition (https://freedomonlinecoalition.com/). Internet restrictions threaten both the ability of journalists to do their job and the access to journalism that people need to be active, informed citizens.
The U.S. Embassy Monrovia supports independent media through a variety of programs, including exchange programs, visiting expert speakers, and training opportunities. USAID Liberia’s Civil Society and Media programs are also focused on increasing access to independent and reliable information by strengthening civil society organizations and increasing their ability to engage in issues-based reforms. Concurrently, USAID is working to professionalize media houses, promote adherence to journalistic standards and ethics, strengthen the legal environment for free media, and improve the Liberia Information Commission’s responsiveness to requests for information from citizens and media institutions.