Statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs Philippe Goffin on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, May 3, 2020

On World Press Freedom Day, we celebrate the vital role played by a free press. Foreign Minister Philippe Goffin stresses that an independent and reliable press is an important indicator of a democratic and open society, which can only function properly when its citizens are well informed.

Philippe Goffin: “Freedom of press is much more than allowing journalists to do their jobs without restraints, it also guarantees the right of every citizen to neutral information, it guarantees the right to disagree and to say it, write it and spread it around through as many channels as necessary, as often as necessary".

It is not without reason that the press is considered to be the watchdog of democracy: journalists investigate the real facts, give a voice to the voiceless, and hold politicians accountable.

Many journalists work in difficult conditions and are often targeted by individuals or organizations who wish to restrict freedom of expression. Today we, therefore, pay tribute to journalists around the world who have lost their lives while practicing their profession. According to Reporters Without Borders, 39 journalists, 10 citizen journalists, and 3 media assistants died as a result of their journalistic activities last year. States must provide them with adequate protection, and ensure that the perpetrators of acts of violence or intimidation against journalists be held responsible.

The importance of a free and independent press is even more evident in times of emergency. As the world faces its most serious health crisis in decades, people are looking for reliable information. By providing accurate facts, journalists help individuals and governments make informed decisions in the fight against COVID-19. Gaining an independent and critical view helps prevent the spread of misinformation.

Freedom of expression, including freedom of the press, is indispensable for any democratic society. This freedom is a strong pillar for a wide range of other human rights. It is a universal right, which everyone should be able to invoke without distinction, in Belgium and abroad. Our country will continue to promote this right, in its bilateral relations as well as at the EU level, and in multilateral fora such as the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the Council of Europe.