Today, the freedom of opinion and expression — a cornerstone of any strong and healthy democracy — is in great danger. This fundamental right cannot survive if journalists lack the ability to speak and write freely and provide people with free, factual, and reliable information. Some of the gravest threats to the media’s ability to fact check and provide contrasting points of views stems from the digital transformation.
Widespread online disinformation continues to spread, influencing debates, and interfering in elections, to distort the outcome. Almost everywhere, private interests continue to control information. Many countries have seen a severe upsurge in threats against journalists and suppression of the press by political parties.
Against this backdrop, our democracies must take urgent action. We cannot resign ourselves to this situation. We must act now to protect our access to independent, pluralistic, facts-based information, which is essential for people to freely form their opinions and play an active and constructive role in democratic debates. That is why we commend the work of the International Information and Democracy Commission, which presented the outcome of its work at the Paris Peace Forum on Sunday.
This commission, which was created at the initiative of Reporters Without Borders, calls on all of us to value the global communication and information area as a common good of humanity, in which the freedom, pluralism and integrity of information must be promoted.
It proposes that global media and communications leaders, particularly of digital platforms, take greater responsibility to pursue political and ideological neutrality, pluralism and transparency. The commission also calls for the recognition of individuals’ rights, not just to independent and pluralistic information, but also reliable information.
These are thought-provoking, innovative proposals, and as leaders, we must take action to bring them to life and set a political process in motion. The goal is for our states, in the coming months, to create their own road maps to promote the right to freedom of opinion and expression in the technological and political context of the 21st century.
We hope as many states as possible will join us. Seventy years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we are reiterating through this initiative our commitment to our peoples’ most essential rights.
Justin Trudeau is the prime minister of Canada, Emmanuel Macron is the president of France, Erna Solberg is the prime minister of Norway, Carlos Alvarado is the president of Costa Rica, Beji Caïd Essebsi is the president of Tunisia, Macky Sall is the president of Senegal, and Saad Hariri is the prime minister of Lebanon.