Switzerland and OHCHR stress importance of freedom of the press and freedom of opinion and expression

Bern, 01.09.2020 - Around the world, the work of journalists has become more difficult in recent years. In many places, press freedom is being restricted. Under the heading of ‘Journalists at risk - Let's protect media freedom!’, President Simonetta Sommaruga and Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, issued a joint invitation to an event in Geneva, providing a platform for journalists concerned.

“We must protect freedom of the press; in doing so we are also protecting our society”, stated President Sommaruga on Tuesday, 1 September. Prior to the event, Ms Sommaruga held bilateral talks with the UN High Commissioner and the Director General of the UN Office at Geneva, Tatiana Valovaya.

Following the opening addresses by President Sommaruga and the UN High Commissioner, journalists from Mexico, China and Syria reported on the everyday challenges they faced in carrying out their work. This was followed by a panel discussion in which the internationally renowned Swiss cartoonist Chappatte also took part.

The joint event in Geneva hosted by Switzerland and the UN High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) was intended to highlight the importance of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’

Freedom of the press is threatened around the world with journalists often the victims of intimidation, aggression, arbitrary imprisonment, and routinely hindered in their work. The invitation also drew attention to further worrying trends such as the criminalisation of the media and increased electronic surveillance. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed just how important the free flow of information, openness and transparency are in building trust in society and in securing support for health policy measures.

The event in Geneva took place with a view to the upcoming UN General Assembly, which will be held in the second half of September in virtual form due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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