Netherlands supports free press in words and deeds

Today is World Press Freedom Day. Freedom of expression and press freedom are essential to the correct functioning of a democracy governed by the rule of law. And journalists have a vital role to play as guardians of democracy.

No press freedom means no access to reliable, independent information. This lies at the heart of freedom of expression. The Netherlands supports the free press in words and deeds, as part of its human rights policy.

Globally, press freedom is under pressure. Only one in seven people worldwide live in a country where the press can be said to be free. Over the past few years there has been a sharp increase in the number of journalists imprisoned because of their work. Every week a journalist is murdered somewhere in the world. And nine out of ten of these murders remain unsolved. This is cause for concern, and the reason the Netherlands is committed to improving global press freedom.

The Dutch government supports the independent position of journalists and media organisations. It also helps journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders in distress. The Human Rights Fund supports projects promoting high-quality, diverse media in countries where it is currently lacking. One example is Radio Dabanga, which is the most important objective source of news for the people of Darfur. News is gathered in Sudan, and broadcast from a safe location in the Netherlands.

The right to expression is just as important online as offline. The Netherlands was a founding member of the Freedom Online Coalition, a cross-regional alliance of 26 African, Asian, European, American and Middle-Eastern countries. The coalition promotes internet freedom, the ultimate aim being to ensure that everyone can access the internet freely.

On 4 and 5 May the Freedom Online Coalition’s annual conference will be held in Mongolia. The coalition is keen to emphasise the important of internet freedom and actively involve regional civil society in the debate.