Hunter College’s Journalism Program Director Sissel McCarthy celebrated World Press Freedom Day on May 3 by calling on the public to recognize the value of a free press and support local journalism.
She made her remarks at a virtual event hosted by the Association of Foreign Correspondents, or AFC, on the current state of press freedom in the United States and around the globe.
“On this World Press Freedom Day, there is sadly little to celebrate and much to defend.”— Sissel McCarthy, director, Hunter Journalism Program
“On this World Press Freedom Day, there is sadly little to celebrate and much to defend,” McCarthy said. “Press freedom around the world is under siege, misinformation is rampant, and journalists continue to be arrested and even killed in the line of duty. On top of that, we have the COVID-19 pandemic, which is only exacerbating these three threats and providing cover to authoritarian leaders already intent on curbing press freedom.”
Other members of the panel included AFC President Thanos Dimadis, PEN America Director Tom Melia and journalists Bill Gentile, Frank Smythe, Bricio Segovia and Susan Modaress Tehrani.
The panelists agreed that new laws to suppress press freedom and censor news about the coronavirus pandemic are among the most alarming trends.
McCarthy said these laws punish reporters with prison time and fines for spreading so-called “fake news” about the pandemic, but ruling leaders in those countries are the sole judge of what is true.
“This undermines trust in the press and public institutions like the CDC and WHO by preying on people’s fears and drowning out the factual information they need to make rational, potentially life-saving decisions,” McCarthy said.
The discussion ended on a positive note, with a call to action to the public to support local news and journalists around the world who are risking their own freedom and lives to hold those in power to account.
Read McCarthy’s remarks in full on NewsLiteracyMatters.com.