May 3, 2023, marks the 30th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day.
World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in Dec. 1993 and is an opportunity to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, assess the state of press freedom and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
This is a day that should remind us how important it is that we live in a democratic society with an independent press, which is free to hold the powerful to account, committed to the public interest and able to tell local stories that bind our communities.
Unfortunately, journalism in Canada is at a crossroads. The financial models for journalism are broken, and the country requires a strong, political will to ensure a vibrant free press remains viable.
Canadian journalists are being harassed and abused online and in the field at alarming rates, which results in the censoring the most vulnerable voices in media. Journalists and media workers who are women, workers of colour, Indigenous, 2SLGBTQIA+, and from other equity-deserving groups, are disproportionally targeted by this harassment. If left unchecked, harassment and abuse have a silencing effect and impact press freedom.
Unifor is on the forefront of these issues, championing legislation to support a vibrant media industry in Canada, and creating an action plan to combat the harassment and abuse of journalists and media workers.
Our union’s plan is a two-path approach. The first path is to support the victims of harassment and the second is to combat harassment and look for ways to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Solutions to the troubling issues faced by journalists and media workers will take resolve from all stakeholders, including employers, unions, government, police, and prosecutors.
Global press freedom remains far from reach. In 2022, there were 67 journalists killed, a steep increase from the year before. Ukraine, China, and Afghanistan were among the toughest countries to report from as journalists risked their lives and struggled to uncover the truth.
Our union will continue to stand up for press freedom and to continue the daily work to uphold its principles.
We will continue to pressure the federal government to support media workers and the organizations that represent them in Canada, and across the globe.
Unifor will continue to advocate for a national plan to protect journalists from harassment and abuse, inside and outside of the newsroom.
Today, and every day, we encourage members and local unions to join us in the fight for press freedom.