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Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg on World Press Freedom Day: “Independent, Critical Journalism is a Cornerstone of Democracy”

Today, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg highlights the importance of free journalism as a cornerstone of democracy and points out the dangers that journalists face in the course of their work. According to the International Press Institute (IPI), 28 journalists have already been killed in 2022, although the true number is unknown. The number of those who have been attacked or threatened because of their work is much higher. The rate of unsolved cases is shockingly high – around 90% of all reported cases remain unsolved, and the perpetrators are never held accountable.

I admire the many journalists who risk their freedom or even their lives every day, in the most adverse conditions, in the service of independent journalism. On this World Press Freedom Day, we honour independent, critical journalism as a cornerstone of a free, democratic society,

says Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg in commemoration of World Press Freedom Day.

In multilateral fora, Austria continues to support stronger standards for the protection of journalists in times of peace as well as during conflicts. In addition, Austria also supports specific projects to benefit those who are directly impacted. In March, the federal government provided UNESCO with $100,000 (more than 90,600 euros) from the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) in order to support the work of around 1,000 independent journalists in Ukraine. Through their independent research in Ukraine, journalists make a valuable contribution to help document Russian war crimes and disprove Russian misinformation. As a result, they help ensure that the perpetrators of atrocities do not go unpunished.

Protecting journalists has been a major topic of Austrian foreign policy for many years. Members of the press are risking their lives for free, independent and objective reporting from conflict and crisis areas, like Ukraine. Our contribution helps make them more resilient,

says Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg.

Preparations are currently also underway for a high-ranking media conference to mark the ten-year anniversary of the United Nations Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists. The conference will be held in Vienna in November. Discussion topics will include prevention, protection, and prosecution of crimes against journalists, along with stocktaking of the successes and challenges of the past ten years in terms of implementing the UN action plan. Moreover, as a host country, Austria supports the work of Teresa Ribeiro, the Commissioner for Freedom of the Media at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europa (OSCE). In addition, Austria participates in the Global Media Defence Fund, which gives journalists who are being prosecuted for their work access to specialised defence lawyers. The fund also helps public prosecutors and judges investigate crimes against journalists. 

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