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US Remains Firmly Committed to Promoting and Protecting Press Freedom

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Press Freedom A Fundamental Component Of Democratic Fabric

At an event commemorating World Press Freedom Day, the United States of America today underscored its commitment to promoting and protecting press freedom, and to supporting United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) dedication to freedom of expression across the globe.

In his remarks in Washington DC, US Secretary of State John Kerry says he considers the special day as an opportunity to express the world's solidarity with independent media in all corners of the world, recall journalists who have lost their lives and sacrificed their freedom or personal well-being, and recognize and honor those who fight against repressive regimes that target the press.

He says the US hold press freedom as a fundamental component of our democratic fabric, enshrined in the First Amendment to its Constitution.

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Members of Westboro Baptist Church have been specifically banned from entering Canada for hate speech. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Journalists In Other Countries Not Free To Exercise Their Duties

In contrast with the US upholding the rights of free journalists, in some countries, those who try to exercise their freedom of expression face repression and harassment, from financially crippling lawsuits to imprisonment and death.

Secretary Kerry says journalists are increasingly confronted by the failure of governments to protect this freedom, and even as technology increases the possibilities for innovative expression online, the space for free media is shrinking.

The US call upon all governments to take the necessary steps to foster an environment where journalists can operate freely, independently, and without fear, and to release all imprisoned journalists wherever they are held.

The World Press Freedom Day is an annual occasion to recognize, honor, and underscore the essential role of independent media in fostering and protecting freedom of expression and democratic principles.

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Permanent Free Speech Wall in Charlottesville, VA. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

US Urges Leaders, Civil Society, Governments To Enforce Human Rights That Protect Journalists

The US is urging all people, members of news organizations, civil society and think tank institutions; political leaders, scholars, and citizens of every faith and ethnicity to call for accountability.

They must demand that governments enforce human rights that protect journalists and this fundamental freedom.

The U.S. Government continues to fund programs to provide media organizations and journalists with the tools and resources they need to produce high-quality stories without fear of retribution.

The US government will soon be building safety training facilities in El Salvador, Nairobi, and Georgia.

The US provides trainings and exchanges to the United States, including our Edward R. Murrow Program, and a Foreign Press Center program for visiting journalists from around the world to begin later this month.

US also remains committed to supporting technological innovations that expand the space for freedom of expression, and opportunities for citizens around the world to speak out and stand up for their human rights.

In addition, the US calls upon the international community to join us in this and other commitments, and in addressing the undue restrictions, attacks, and threats to press freedom worldwide.

Global Media Freedom At Low Point

The percentage of the world's population living in societies with a fully free press has fallen to its lowest level in over a decade, according to a Freedom House report released today.

An overall downturn in global media freedom in 2012 was punctuated by dramatic decline in Mali, deterioration in Greece, and a further tightening of controls in Latin America. Moreover, conditions remained uneven in the Middle East and North Africa, with Tunisia and Libya largely retaining gains from 2011 even as Egypt experienced significant backsliding.

The report, Freedom of the Press 2013, found that despite positive developments in Burma, the Caucasus, parts of West Africa, and elsewhere, the dominant trend was one of setbacks in a range of political settings. Reasons for decline included the increasingly sophis­ticated repression of independent journalism and new media by authoritarian regimes; the ripple effects of the European economic crisis and longer-term challenges to the financial sustainability of print media; and ongoing threats from nonstate actors such as radical Islamists and organized crime groups.

Internet Freedom Under Threat Too!

The US says internet freedom is increasingly under threat.

Repressive regimes understand the power of this technology, and they are redoubling their attempts to control it.

Internet freedom derives from universal and cherished rights, the freedoms of speech, assembly, and association and is based on the concept that the same rights that apply offline apply in new online environments.

US notes that an open and accessible Internet gives people a platform from which to express their aspirations and shape their own destiny.

US believes people in every country deserve to be able to take part in building a more peaceful, prosperous, and democratic society.

In the 21st century, technology is a powerful tool with which to exercise human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Internet, mobile phone networks, and other new technologies have a profound effect on the ability of citizen movements around the world to organize themselves in this era.

Repressive governments used to set up simple firewalls at Internet Exchange Points to block external content from outside their borders.

In addition, some stated are using sophisticated software to monitor all digital activity within their countries, and to delete posts and block emails in something approaching real time.

Some countries are using tracking what their citizens do on their phones and computers and exerting state control over content, over users, over companies, and over the infrastructure of the Internet.

Earlier in 2012, the U.S. said it was committed to advance internet freedom, and in late October, made internet freedom a foreign policy priority. At that time, in a presentation at the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership, Assistant Secretary Michael H. Posner said the U.S. Congress had allocated $70 million to the U.S. State Department, to fund technology, training and policy advocacy for Internet freedom around the world.

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain english. Read more stories by Mina Fabulous. Contact Mina through NewsBlaze.

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