The WACC statement said that freedom of the press underlies democracy, and enhances freedom of expression. The “fourth estate” must hold governments and public institutions accountable and therefore it has an indispensable task.
“Press freedom is essential for the media to foster dialogue, challenge violations of human rights and the rule of law, and expose corruption. Press freedom is a matter of life and death,” it said.
In some countries journalists are seen as subversive and irresponsible elements that destabilize those in power.
The world Christian communication group notes that already in 2009, Reporters Without Borders has recorded the deaths of 18 journalists and the imprisonment of 143 journalists and 66 cyber dissidents. It also said special attention has been paid to the plight of women journalists in Yemen, who are subject to censorship and slanderous attacks “simply because they are women.”
World Press Freedom Day marks the anniversary of the 1991 Declaration of Windhoek, a statement of principles calling for free, independent, and diverse media throughout the world. The declaration affirms that a free press is essential to the existence of democracy and a fundamental human goal.
Toronto-based WACC said, “Communication is a basic human right that defines people’s common humanity, strengthens cultures, enables participation, creates community and challenges tyranny and oppression.” The Christian group noted that the potential of media to foster dialogue, mutual understanding and reconciliation is the theme of the UN World Press Freedom Day 2009. “Good governance and informed democratic participation depend on a free press. They also depend on diverse and pluralistic media that follow high professional and ethical standards of accuracy and inclusiveness, and that are not beholden to special private or political interests.”
It also stressed, “Media responsibility and accountability, in combination with press freedom, lie at the heart of democratic processes.”
Bearing this in mind, “civil society media observatories have begun to monitor media content and to critique media ownership and control. Media reform movements in Europe, Latin America, and North America underscore the need and desire for an inclusive, diverse, vibrant, and fair media, free from political and commercial special interests,” says the WACC statement.