On the 3rd of May 2017, World Freedom of Press Day is commemorated all around the world to celebrate and stand up for the fundamental principles of press freedom and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.
For the European Union, freedom of press is closely linked to freedom of expression and opinion which are fundamental rights of human beings and essential for the fulfilment of a wide range of other rights. Furthermore, freedom of press is a cornerstone of democracy not only because it ensures transparency and accountability but also because it facilitates the free flow of information and ideas on matters of general interest. People need to be fully informed to be able to form an opinion and participate in decision-making processes that affect their lives. Similarly, technological innovations have created new opportunities for individuals to disseminate information and have impacted the political participation and contributions of citizens. Therefore, the EU is committed to continue promoting and protecting freedom of opinion and expression worldwide, not only offline but also online, as highlighted by the adoption in 2014 of the EU Human Rights Guidelines on Freedom of Expression Online and Offline.
The theme of the 2017 world freedom of press day is 'Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media's role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies'. In this sense, the EU highlights today the importance of journalists in spreading unbiased and factual information and combatting the spread of 'fake news'. In Laos, the Decree and the Media Law adopted in 2016 tends to restrict freedom of expression by screening all messages that are issued on the national territory, as also conveyed to the Government of the Lao PDR by the relevant UN Special Procedure communication.
All over the world, political pressure, economic hardship, restrictive legislation, and physical attacks against journalists all influence the media's ability to operate. Furthermore, journalists’ work in uncovering abuses of power, shining a light on corruption and questioning the status quo often put them at specific risk of intimidation and violence; in 2016 at least 115 journalists were killed simply for doing their job. The EU condemns the increasing level of intimidation and violence that journalists, media actors and other individuals face in many countries across the world when exercising the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
While the EU acknowledges that press freedom continues to face challenges and restrictions everywhere, it also highlights that efforts to improve Laos’ ranking in the Press Freedom Index and to increase the scope for the press to operate without restrictions would significantly contribute towards increasing transparency, accountability and public participation, all of which are in line with the Government’s national objectives.
The EU reaffirms its determination to promote and support, freedoms of opinion and expression as rights to be exercised by everyone everywhere, based on the principles of equality, non-discrimination and universality.