UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres addresses the United Nations. Photo by a katz Shutterstock
In a video address this week, UN Secretary-General António Guterres explained that for 2022, the International Day of Democracy, Sept. 15, focused on media freedom and its role supporting democracy and peace.
“Civic space is shrinking,” he said. “Distrust and disinformation are growing and polarization is undermining democratic institutions. … Without a free press, democracy cannot survive. Without freedom of expression, there is no freedom.” (A transcript is at the bottom of this page.)
Here at California Local we were glad to see Sec. Gen. Guterres point the world’s attention toward the intersection of journalism and democracy—the crossroads where we live. Our mission is to bring together engaged citizens, help them find information they can trust, and empower them to participate in the social and political life of their communities. Our slogan is “We make it easy to citizen.”
The UN’s International Day of Democracy page explains why this is important in disarmingly simple terms.
“Free, independent and pluralistic media, able to keep the public informed on matters of public interest, is a key ingredient to democracy. It enables the public to make informed decisions and hold governments to account.”
In other parts of the world, as Sec. Gen. Guterres points out, “media workers face censorship, detention, physical violence, and even killings.” Here in California, the free media and the people who need it in order to function as a democratic body face two serious threats.
The first is that many newsrooms throughout the state have been either gutted or shuttered over the past decade. At the same time, the disinformation and polarization that Sec. Gen. Guterres decries are as rampant here as in any developing nation. (And of course, the social media companies that promulgate much of the malignant content are headquartered here in our beloved state.)
On the California Local Blog, we try to briefly explain what we’re doing and why; here are two ways we are fighting to protect journalism and democracy.
To help promote the work of local media outlets, we are inviting local publishers to join us in the California Local Media Alliance, where we promote their work on our website and social media channels. To build civic trust and inspire hope in democracy—aka combat polarization—we simply practice old-fashioned ethical American-style journalism.
I do not want to make light of the fact that citizens and journalists elsewhere in the world face graver threats. I honor them and those working to help them, and I’m grateful that Sec. Gen. Guterres and his colleagues chose to address this situation today.
Transcript of UN Secretary-General António Guterres' statement celebrating press freedom on International Democracy Day.
Today marks the 15th anniversary of the International Day of Democracy.
Yet across the world, democracy is backsliding.
Civic space is shrinking.
Distrust and disinformation are growing.
And polarization is undermining democratic institutions.
Now is the time to raise the alarm.
Now is the time to reaffirm that democracy, development, and human rights are interdependent and mutually reinforcing.
Now is the time to stand up for the democratic principles of equality, inclusion, and solidarity.
And stand with those who strive to secure the rule of law and promote the full participation in decision-making.
This year, we focus on a cornerstone of democratic societies—free, independent, and pluralistic media.
Attempts to silence journalists are growing more brazen by the day—from verbal assault to online surveillance and legal harassment—especially against women journalists.
Media workers face censorship, detention, physical violence, and even killings—often with impunity.
Such dark paths inevitably lead to instability, injustice and worse.
Without a free press, democracy cannot survive. Without freedom of expression, there is no freedom.
On Democracy Day and every day, let us join forces to secure freedom and protect the rights of all people, everywhere.