Canada’s unions are marking World Press Freedom Day by calling on governments around the world and here at home to do more to protect the rights of journalists to practice their profession without fear of reprisals, violence or even death.
“Far too many journalists continue to risk their lives in upholding a basic cornerstone of all democratic societies: press freedom,” said Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). “This is an important day to remember those who have died in the line of duty and to continue to advocate for better protections for those who continue to do their important work despite the fear of retribution or attack.”
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) observatory recorded 99 journalists killed in 2018, and a total of 1,307 journalists killed between 1994 and 2018. The 2019 World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders, marks an ongoing decline in the numbers of countries around the world where journalists are able to work safely.
The index shows Canada’s ranking has remained steady at 18th overall in the index since 2018. “Back in the top 20 but still room for improvement,” write the authors. The report points to a number of factors contributing to this stagnation: the ongoing effort by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to compel a VICE News reporter to hand over communications with a source; criminal and civil charges against a journalist over his coverage of protests against a hydroelectric project in Labrador; and the closure of more than 40 independent newspapers.
“Canada must do better in upholding the principles of press freedom and media pluralism,” added Yussuff. “At a time of growing mistrust of media institutions, we must now more than ever do all we can to support the independence of news organizations and continue to advocate for investments in local news outlets and companies. Our democracy depends on it.”