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LETTER | Protecting press freedom for democracy

LETTER | The theme of 2022’s International Day of Democracy, which is the importance of media freedom to democracy, peace, and delivering on sustainable development goals, is timely in reminding us that the press plays a crucial role in ensuring accountability of democratic institutions.

The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated the regression of democracy across the globe and we witnessed governments compromising fundamental freedoms and suppressing information to its people. In this process, many media actors were targeted by the state for simply doing their mandate.

As we heal from the pandemic and as restrictions are gradually lifted, we must demand and act towards the restoration of a free press, free expression, and the widening of civic space.

The Asia Democracy Network (ADN), on the occasion of the International Day of Democracy 2022, calls on all governments to ensure respect for freedom of the press. Journalists should not be seen as a threat, but rather partners carrying a mandate to ensure transparent information and delivery of truth to the public.

We reiterate that the media and press are the fourth estate and play a vital role in ensuring a functioning democracy. The press serves as the citizens’ watchdog on every aspect of democratic governance and the free flow of information.

Taking this opportunity, ADN furthermore calls upon the governments in Asia to ensure freedom of expression and widening space for all people.

We strongly encourage the active development of strategies to combat misinformation and disinformation, which has become an existential threat to the sustainability of democracy and human rights.

Misinformation and disinformation must be addressed and it must start with education, not the criminalisation of it. Educating the public must be prioritised and this must include relevant stakeholders, among them civil society organisations and members of the press.

Lastly, ADN would like to express our highest gratitude and solidarity to members of the press, civil society organisations, and all pro-democrats for their sacrifice and endless effort in keeping the powerful accountable despite all the challenges and threats they are often faced with.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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