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Acting VOA Director, VOA Journalists Mark World Press Freedom Day

At the UNESCO conference, a panel moderated by Jessica Jerreat, VOA Press Freedom Editor (Center) with Acting VOA Director Yolanda López (R) delivering the keynote as scholars presented new research.
At the UNESCO conference, a panel moderated by Jessica Jerreat, VOA Press Freedom Editor (Center) with Acting VOA Director Yolanda López (R) delivering the keynote as scholars presented new research.

Voice of America journalists and leaders observed World Press Freedom Day 2022 with news coverage across the globe, along with key appearances at events and conferences.

Acting VOA Director Yolanda López delivered the keynote address at the Academic Conference on the Safety of Journalists during the “UNESCO World Press Freedom Global Conference” at Punta Del Este, Uruguay. In her address, López pointed to the “unprecedented change” in the press freedom environment during VOA’s 80-year history and the challenges media face each day in reporting the news.

“Establishing safety protocols and protecting our journalists is certainly something we can do,” López said. “But we cannot control some of the hostile rhetoric targeting journalists around the world.”

The academic conference meets each year, organizers say, to present new research, strengthen academic research into global threats against journalists and contribute to a safer environment for journalists.

“If we think that a free press truly is one of the pillars of a free society, then protecting our journalists to help them do their jobs is everybody’s responsibility,” López told audiences gathered in Uruguay and online.

“We need everybody’s help, we need everyone, in all levels of our societies, to believe that what we do is worthwhile, that it’s worth protecting,” she added.

VOA’s Press Freedom Editor Jessica Jerreat moderated the opening of the academic conference on journalist safety. This year, the conference theme is “Journalism Under Digital Siege.” López also was scheduled to appear on a panel discussing the role of public service media in safeguarding journalists and promoting press freedom

The VOA Press Freedom page highlighted the globe’s most important press freedom stories. Among them, “The Afghan Journalists who Stayed.” While hundreds of journalists fled Taliban rule after the takeover last August, many more chose to stay in spite of the regime’s hostility. Masood Farivar, former chief of VOA’s Afghan service, interviewed several journalists about their decisions to remain and how their work changed in the culture of intolerance.

While polarization and propaganda drown out independent news in many countries, VOA reports that the new Press Freedom rankings by Reporters Without Borders showed increased threats to journalists in Russia, Hong Kong, Myanmar and Ethiopia. The U.S showed slight improvement in the index though journalists and media outlets report barriers to coverage, including of state governments and protests.

Threats, including those from organized crime, make Mexico the most dangerous country for journalists outside a war zone. A culture of impunity and inaction in securing justice for attacks and killings of journalists plagues the country, VOA reports a new People's Tribunal seeks to hold the government accountable for making journalists safe, a story covered in English and Spanish.

VOA’s 52 Documentary unit released a film on VOA+ and its YouTube channel, India's Shackled Press, about the jailed Indian journalist Siddique Kappan and the challenges his family faced. Kappan was charged with sedition for attempting to report on the gang rape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit woman, the lowest caste in India.

Press freedom is a core issue across VOA's networks, with dedicated coverage in Spanish, Russian, Bosnian, Burmese, Cantonese, Indonesian, Khmer, Korean, Mandarin, Thai, Tibetan and Vietnamese.

These are a few highlights of 2022 World Press Freedom Day coverage from VOA’s 47 language services, reaching a weekly audience of 311 million:

  • A TV, radio and digital series, “Journalists in Exile” features African journalists who left their countries after being persecuted or muzzled by their governments -- from Burundi, Somalia, DRC, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Angola, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe.
  • A VOA Ukraine service interactive web project is dedicated to journalists killed this year while covering the Russian war in Ukraine.
  • A Russian service roundtable discussion of press freedom in Russian with a former “Echo of Moscow” journalist, the director of the Regional Press Institute in St. Petersburg and a senior fellow in Russia.
  • The VOA Mandarin service is talking to former Hong Kong journalists on the decline of press freedom in the city they have left.

VOA journalists appeared at a number of press freedom event in recent days:

  • VOA Press Freedom Editor Jessica Jerreat moderated VOA’s discussion, “Voice of America: Role of the Free Press Amid Intensifying Attacks on Global Media,” on April 26. Russian service reporter Danila Galperovich joined the panel.
  • Press Freedom reporter Sirwan Kajjo and News Center Editor Salem Solomon appeared in an April 28 discussion, “Reporting in Dangerous Times,” hosted by the International Center for Journalism.
  • South and Central Asia Division Director Ayesha Tanzeem, most recently VOA’s Pakistan/Afghanistan bureau chief, appeared in a press freedom day event on May 3 by the Association of Foreign Correspondents in the U.S.

World Press Freedom day is marked every May 3, but VOA’s mission to report news to the most censored countries in the world underscores the importance of promoting and protecting a free press every day.