Transforming education, transforming the world

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On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the International Day of Democracy, commemorated on Thursday, the UN chief noted that “everywhere in the world, democracy is declining”.

“Civic space is shrinking. Mistrust and misinformation are growing. And polarization undermines democratic institutions,” Secretary-General António Guterres said in his video message marking the day.

Sound the alarm

He said “the time has come” to sound the alarm and “reaffirm that democracy, development and human rights are interdependent and mutually reinforcing”.

“Now is the time to uphold the democratic principles of equality, inclusion and solidarity.”

The UN chief said it was important to stand with those working to ensure the rule of law and promote full participation in decision-making.

Focus on media

Mr. Guterres drew attention to this year’s focus on free, independent and pluralistic media, which he described as the “cornerstone of democratic societies”.

He warned that from verbal assaults to online surveillance and legal harassment, attempts to silence journalists are “getting more brazen by the day” – especially against female journalists.

As media professionals face censorship, detention, physical violence and even murder – often with impunity – the UN chief recalled that “such dark paths inevitably lead to instability , to injustice and to the worst”.

Without a free press, democracy cannot survive. Without freedom of expression, there is no freedom,” the Secretary-General stressed, urging the world to join forces “to secure freedom and protect the rights of everyone, everywhere.”

Press freedom in decline

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), over the past five years, 85% of the world’s population has experienced a decline in press freedom.

The UN agency explained that in an attempt to obstruct their work, media around the world are increasingly facing attacks, both online and offline.

They are the target of an increasing number of detentions; the use of defamation laws; cybersecurity or hate speech laws to curb online expression; and growing surveillance technologies.

The COVID-19 crisis has also shown how more critical than ever it has become for the media to gather and assess facts and counter misinformation. Ensuring online safety and security is equally essential.

unite and protect

Women journalists are particularly affected. UNESCO and the International Center of Journalists found that 73% of 714 female journalists from 125 countries said they had experienced online violence in the course of their work.

In addition, attempts to silence journalists are becoming more brazen by the day and they often pay the ultimate price.

From 2016 to the end of 2021, UNESCO recorded the murders of 455 journalists, who died either for their work or in the course of their work.

“On this International Day of Democracy, we celebrate more than just a principle of political organization: we celebrate an ideal whose foundations are “the dignity, equality and mutual respect” of people – the very foundations of the ‘Constitutive Act of UNESCO’, said Director-General Audrey Azoulay.

spread the word

Meanwhile, other members of the United Nations family have taken to Twitter to lend weight to the day by promoting its importance.

UN Women, the entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women, encouraged women to “participate in political processes and support their aspirations for freedom, equality, autonomy and ‘self-determination’.

The UN’s humanitarian coordination office, OCHA, took advantage of this day to “thank the journalists who play an essential role for democracy”, while stressing the need to “combat misinformation and disinformation and protect the press, including that which covers conflicts and humanitarian crises, which are increasingly the target of threats and violence”.

The UN human rights office, OHCHR, has simply said, “Protecting press freedom protects democracy”.

Elections

Democracy is a core value of the United Nations, which the Organization supports by promoting human rights, development, peace and security.

Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo explains her role as UN focal point for electoral assistance, a key aspect of democracy.

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