Global Leaders Emphasize Press Freedom in Tackling Environmental Crisis

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As part of activities to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the World Press Freedom Day (WPFD), leaders from four key United Nations (UN) bodies on May 3, 2024, issued a joint statement underlining the essential role of press freedom in addressing the global environmental crisis.

The joint statement was issued in Santiago, Chile by the Presidents of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and the Human Rights Council (HRC).

Commemorating the 1994 adoption of the historic Santiago Declaration, which emphasized the fundamental right to freedom of expression and press freedom, the joint statement highlights the importance of these freedoms in promoting a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. The leaders noted that access to accurate information is crucial for raising public awareness, fostering informed debate, and countering misinformation in the fight against climate change and environmental degradation.

The statement called on states to respect, protect, and promote human rights in their efforts to address environmental challenges. It also underscored the need for additional measures to protect those particularly vulnerable to environmental degradation, referencing the Framework Principles on Human Rights and the Environment.

The joint statement recognized UNESCO’s role in making World Press Freedom Day a diverse platform for protecting and promoting freedom of expression. As the world works towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the leaders call on member states to reaffirm their commitments to freedom of expression and access to information.

Emphasizing the urgency of addressing climate change and related challenges, the statement underlines the critical role of the media as a watchdog and catalyst for action. The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the safety of journalists and the defense of freedom of opinion and expression as fundamental human rights, essential for promoting and protecting other rights and freedoms.

The joint statement also acknowledges the contributions of journalists, particularly women, in raising awareness about climate change and environmental issues. The discussions on this World Press Freedom Day aim to inform crucial processes such as the 2024 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, the Summit of the Future, and COP29.

The leaders strongly condemned violence, intimidation, and attacks against journalists and media workers, including in conflict situations, and advocated for policies that promote a free, independent, and pluralistic media. They also highlighted the importance of ensuring that artificial intelligence systems are designed and used in ways that respect human rights and information integrity.

The statement was signed by Amb. Francis Dennis, President, UN General Assembly; Amb. Simona-Mirela Miculescu, President, UNESCO General Conference; Amb. Paula Narváez Ojeda, President, UN Economic and Social Council; and Amb. Omar Zniber, President, UN Human Rights Council.