On World Press Freedom Day we celebrate the essential role of a free press not only as a conveyer of reliable and accurate news, but as a pillar of democracy. The quality of democratic processes is linked to the state of freedom of expression as well as media freedom and pluralism. There is no democracy without a truly free press.
While bearing the great responsibility to guarantee checked and correct news to the public, free, diverse and independent media are at the very same basis of a pluralistic and open society. Investigative journalism fulfils a necessary watchdog role that assists the public in holding governments and institutions, at all level, accountable for their actions and obligations. However, we see more and more attempts to curb the space for free media, also by systematically undermining their credibility, and too many journalists have lost their lives or have put their lives at risk for having exposed inconvenient truths.
This year's 26th worldwide commemoration addresses the current challenges faced by the media in elections in times of disinformation, as well as the media's potential to support democracy, peace and reconciliation. Disinformation has a high potential to negatively influence democratic processes and public debates all over the world, and the European Union makes no exception.
This is why we have launched the 'EU Action Plan against Disinformation'(*), that steps up the European response to strengthen the resilience of our societies against disinformation. The Plan focuses on improving detection of disinformation, coordinating and joining up actions by the Union and Member States, mobilising the private sector to deliver on its commitments, raising public awareness and empowering citizens. Healthy democracy relies on open, free and fair public debate and it is our duty to protect this space and not allow anybody to spread disinformation that fuels hatred, division, and mistrust in democracy.
The EU is promoting free and fair media not only at home but also globally in our relations with third countries, including by providing funding for targeted projects that enhance quality journalism, press freedom and access to public information. With free journalism under increasing pressure, the EU reaffirms its determination to defend press and media freedom within its borders and worldwide.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the EFTA countries Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia align themselves with this declaration.
*North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.