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Your Excellency Commissioner [of the African Union for Peace and Security, Smaїl] Chergui, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is for me a big pleasure to share with you, Commissioner Chergui, the opening of this webinar on such an important topic.
I said many times that the engine of democracy is being fuelled by information. Without information, democracy cannot work. But information does not grow on the trees, it has to be produced and journalists play a vital role on producing information and, so, on promoting democracy, on promoting democratic values, principles and societies.
By keeping citizens informed, journalists help them to hold governments to account. In order to be accountable, citizens have to have the capacity of judgement. And judgement can only work if they are informed, well informed, timely informed.
Likewise, the media help explain the root causes of crisis, raise awareness on threats and foster dialogue among rival groups.
You can disseminate fake news with just 40 characters, but if you want to explain something complex, you need more than that.
You need to raise awareness. You need to be with a lot of information in your mind to distillate it and make it available to the broad public. All these efforts eventually contribute to build a vibrant, democratic society and, with that, an environment that makes peace possible.
This is needed more than ever in today’s world, where we have a lot of news but maybe we do not have enough information, or information of the required quality. Unfortunately, today across the globe, we see growing limitations to freedom of expression, with journalists prevented to do their work, often risking their lives in order to try to do their job.
We see a correlation between countries having governance challenges and vulnerability to armed conflicts and we have to break this vicious circle. On a more positive note, let me say that during the current pandemic, we have seen creative initiatives that have helped the dissemination of information and the fight against disinformation.
Disinformation has always existed. But today it exists at a massive scale and this requires an organised answer. We know that accurate information and reporting on solutions are necessary if we want to address crises and long lasting conflicts. It is crucial that issues of public interest, including those that are politically contentious, can be reported and discussed freely and extensively.
Ladies and gentlemen, the European Union, as Africa’s close neighbour and main partner, strongly supports the African Union efforts in silencing the guns on the continent.
And here, Commissioner [of the African Union for Peace and Security, Smaïl] Chergui, our cooperation aiming at sustainable peace and conflict prevention is at the top of our common agenda. It also fosters inclusive and accountable governance and recognises the role of civil society, the media, and democratic institutions.
Allow me to commend the work of journalists, specifically here, in Africa, and all over the world, for their commitment to ensure that all voices calling for peace are being heard. Voices that will eventually silence the guns because they are more powerful. Your work is crucial in providing reliable and credible analysis and acting as a bridge between local communities and policy makers. I can assure you that the European Union will continue to be a strong and reliable partner in the implementation of the African Union master roadmap for silencing the guns.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-196207