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Director-General's remarks at the World Press Freedom Day event

Tatiana Valovaya

World Press Freedom Day event

“A Press for the Planet”

Tuesday, 7 May 2024 at 3.00 p.m.

Palais des Nations, Room XXIII



Ladies and gentlemen, 

Dear friends,

Welcome to the Palais des Nations for World Press Freedom Day event!

It is my honor to read out the message of the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres:

“The world is going through an unprecedented environmental emergency which poses an existential threat to this and future generations.  People need to know about this – and journalists and media workers have a key role in informing and educating them. 

Local, national and global media outlets can highlight stories about the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, and environmental injustice. Through their work, people come to understand the plight of our planet, and are mobilized and empowered to take action for change.

Media workers also document environmental degradation. And they provide evidence of environmental vandalism that helps to hold those responsible to account. 

It is no surprise that some powerful people, companies and institutions will stop at nothing to prevent environmental journalists from doing their jobs. Media freedom is under siege. And environmental journalism is an increasingly dangerous profession. 

Dozens of journalists covering illegal mining, logging, poaching and other environmental issues have been killed in recent decades.  In the vast majority of cases, no one has been held to account. 

UNESCO reports that in the past fifteen years, there have been some 750 attacks on journalists and news outlets reporting on environmental issues. And the frequency of such attacks is rising. 

Legal processes are also misused to censor, silence, detain and harass environmental reporters, while a new era of climate disinformation focuses on undermining proven solutions, including renewable energy. But environmental journalists are not the only ones at risk. 

Around the world, media workers are risking their lives trying to bring us news on everything from war to democracy. I am shocked and appalled by the high number of journalists killed in Israeli military operations in Gaza. 

The United Nations recognizes the invaluable work of journalists and media professionals to ensure that the public is informed and engaged. 

Without facts, we cannot fight mis- and disinformation. Without accountability, we will not have strong policies in place. 

Without press freedom, we won't have any freedom. A free press is not a choice, but a necessity.

Our World Press Freedom Day is very important. And so, I call on governments, the private sector and civil society to join us in reaffirming our commitment to safeguarding press freedom and the rights of journalists and media professionals around the world.”

This was the end of the message of the United Nations Secretary-General.

Allow me to add a few words of my own.

First of all, let me warmly thank UNESCO for organizing this event, and the Permanent Missions of Austria and Chile for your generous support. 

We are gathered here to discuss ways how we can attain a sustainable future, and how to counter narratives that prevent us from doing so. These are major challenges that require us to work together. 

The United Nations has made it clear: tackling misinformation is not just a priority - it's an imperative.  As we confront global environmental crises, the stakes could not be higher.

In our action against misinformation, science communication is our great ally.  By translating complex scientific findings into accessible language, we empower the public to make informed decisions and shape effective policies.

Media workers around the globe play a pivotal role in educating and enlightening the people about the environmental challenges we face. 

Geneva-based journalists serve as crucial messengers in unveiling and producing impactful stories on environmental emergencies and climate disasters that are reported by multiple UN agencies here. Their reporting not only raises awareness, but also fosters international collaboration, generating responses to ecological crises on a planetary scale.

As a former journalist myself, I pay tribute to those who sift through the noise of misinformation to enable our societies to separate fact from fiction and make informed decisions.   Often, they do so at great risk to themselves.   

It is heartbreaking to witness the perilous conditions under which environmental journalists operate. Many have paid the ultimate price for their courage. Make no mistake: attacks on journalism and on the validity of science are attacks on democracy itself. 

Dear friends,

Together, let us rise to the challenge. Let us defend truth, uphold press freedom, and ensure that future generations inherit a world built on facts, not falsehoods. Our planet depends on it. 

Thank you.


This speech is part of a curated selection from various official events and is posted as prepared.