World Press Freedom Day 2019: Celebrating the Importance of Journalism

World Press Freedom Day: Keeping Tabs on Global Press Health

The world will celebrate its 26th World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

This day recognizes the tradition of examining contemporary challenges for journalists under a specific lens.

2019’s theme is Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation, which focuses on “current challenges faced by media in elections, along with the media’s potential in supporting peace and reconciliation processes.”

Along with the larger theme, World Press Freedom Day has a few smaller, sub-themes. They are:

  1. How the digital era is affecting electoral communications – and how this impacts existing policies and regulations for elections and for communications related to the Internet;
  2. New attempts to undermine media’s role in democracy: Discrediting professional journalism and disrupting Internet access; and
  3. Media’s potential to contribute to a culture of sustainable peace and democracy.

Journalists face challenges every day. This year proves to be no different.

Amid a climate of mistrust and “fake news,” it seems like there have never been more headlines about the authors and organizations behind them—or about threats to them. Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination, Julian Assange’s recent arrest, and the rising number of journalists in jail around the globe demonstrate how grave the consequences can be for challenging power.

In a further blow to media in the U.S., Reporters Without Borders announced its 2019 World Press Freedom Index; the United States fell three spots to No. 48 – behind Botswana, Tonga, and Romania – and into the “problematic” category for the first time in the Index’s history.

To keep up with the events scheduled for World Press Freedom Day, here’s what you can do.

Attend Local World Press Freedom Day Events

Many cities host smaller versions of the main event or workshops inspired by the theme. Below is a small sampling of some of the events planned this year.

  • Freedom of Expression and Research: Threats in Europe – Finland (May 3)
  • Checking the Fact-Checkers: The Role of Media in Times of Disinformation – Montenegro (May 3)
  • Voices and Experiences of Women Journalists and Communicators from Europe and Latin America – Uruguay (May 4)
  • Workshops on Mapping Digital Security Risks, Mitigation Practices and Access to Information – Ecuador (May 3-4)
  • Third World Press Freedom Day Forum in Japan (May 6)

Stay Informed About the Media Industry

While it may be easy to get lost in your beat or local political tensions, it’s important to keep tabs on press health around the world.

  • Research press freedom resources such as the ones provided by The Washington Post’s partnerships, including the Committee to Protect Journalists and the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation.
  • Read information from media watchdog groups such as CJR.
  • Sign up for UNESCO Newsletters.
  • Check out Cision’s 2019 State of the Media Report, a survey of nearly 2,000 media professionals from 10 countries about what’s most important to their jobs.

“Read more. Listen more. Understand more.”

This was the rallying cry of last year’s initiative from a coalition of media outlets to get people to engage with quality journalism in honor of World Press Freedom Day. It’s still a relevant message today.

  • Support journalism by reading stories from a variety of publications and perspectives that challenge your worldview or are unfamiliar to your culture.
  • Purchase subscriptions to the outlets that you value or consider donating to organizations that fight for press freedom.
  • Use #WorldPressFreedomDay on social media.

While the media landscape is complex, the right to a free press should be simple.

We can all do a little more to celebrate the importance of journalism around the world and to ensure that this pillar of the human experience remains strong for centuries to come.

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Erienne Muldoon is a senior customer content specialist for Virtual Press Office, PR Newswire’s trade show marketing solutions division. When she’s not advising clients on storytelling best practices, you can find her tweeting about Cleveland, PR, and video games @ECMuldoon.

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