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World Press Freedom Day 3 May – How Disinformation Challenges Elections and Democracy

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Brussels, May 2019 – World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) marked globally on 3 May focuses on ‘Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation’. The theme selected by UNESCO for the 26th annual WPFD addresses the current challenges faced by media – offline and online – at elections, particularly in light of the current proliferation of disinformation, as well as the potential for media and high-quality journalism to support democracy, peace and reconciliation.

UNESCO notes the current global trends placing pressure on the ability of media to safely, freely and independently contribute to vital democratic processes, as well as the increasing challenges presented by the growing centrality of the Internet during elections.

Against this complicated backdrop,’ UNESCO stresses, ‘it is key to keep focus on a free, independent and pluralistic media, with professional journalism that is practised without fear of attack.’[1]

The WPFD 2019 theme links to issues central to the EU policies on strengthening democracy, human rights and the rule of law, as well as the EU’s ongoing efforts to tackling disinformation.

The 2014 EU Human Rights Guidelines on Freedom of Expression Online and Offline (EU Guidelines) describe actions EU Delegations and Member States can take to support press freedom and media pluralism. Pointedly, the EU Guidelines state that the EU will ‘Encourage free and pluralistic reporting on elections as well as equitable political party access to public service media during election campaigns.’ The EU Guidelines elaborates on these issues, providing information fundamental to EU Delegations’ ability to act in a range of contexts.

Also, and importantly, the WPFD 2019 theme is closely interlinked with the objectives of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)[2] as well as the African Union’s Agenda 2063, which seeks to promote ‘an Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law’.

EU Delegations can leverage World Press Freedom Day to advocate for freedom of expression (FoE) and media pluralism, and to raise awareness of challenges faced by media in their contexts during the elections cycle.

Media4Democracy has developed an Information Note for EU Delegations, circulated jointly by DEVCO and EEAS, that presents recommendations for EU Delegations in the celebration of WPFD. A range of activities are proposed that Delegations can adapt, based on their priorities, capacities and the national context.

EU Delegation staff that have not yet received this Information Note can request it directly from info@media4democracy.eu.