World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) was observed on 3 May 2021. A debate will be held on WPFD in Westminster Hall on Thursday 27 May 2021 at 1.30pm, opened by Damian Collins MP.

WPFD is an initiative from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to support and reflect on the work of media organisations and professionals. It seeks to hold governments to account over their commitment to press freedom and allow the press to reflect on professional ethics. 2021 is the 30th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration on media pluralism and independence.

The theme of this year’s WPFD is “Information as a Public Good.” The goal is to underline the role of the information in an online media environment by focussing on the following:

  • “Steps to ensure the economic viability of news media;
  • Mechanisms for ensuring transparency of Internet companies; 
  • Enhanced Media and Information Literacy (MIL) capacities that enable people to recognize and value, as well as defend and demand, journalism as a vital part of information as a public good.”

The United Kingdom ranks 33rd on the 2021 World Press Freedom Index from Reporters Without Borders and is marked as yellow. This is a second-place categorisation, indicating that press freedom in the UK is generally ‘satisfactory’ but not ‘good’.

On 9 March 2021, the Government published its first National Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists to combat the phenomenon of UK journalists “facing both abuse and threats to their personal safety as well as encroachments on their freedom of expression.”

To mark WFPD 2021, the Media Freedom Coalition, a partnership of countries advocating for media freedom, released a statement on 3 May. Here, they outline what they see as the contemporary challenges that journalism faces:

Journalists and media workers increasingly face physical and verbal violence, threats and intimidation, lawsuits and imprisonment with the aim of silencing them. Online harassment against women journalists has increased exponentially. The repeated use of anti-media rhetoric by some politicians and government leaders is eroding media freedom and is putting individual journalists at risk.

Nicola Murray, Deputy Head of the UK Delegation to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) also released a statement marking WPFD 2021 on 6 May. In particular, she expressed a hope that the National Action Plan could comabt the issue that “too many journalists working in the UK today face both abuse and threats to their personal safety.”

Parliamentary Questions on Press Freedom

House of Commons UIN 128312 [on the World Press Freedom Index], answered 18 December 2020

House of Lords UIN HL7103 [on press freedom during Covid-19], answered 29 July 2020

Further Reading

RSF website, Detailed methodology  – How the Press Freedom Index is calculated

2021 World Press Freedom to promote Information as a Public Good in a severely challenged media landscape (unesco.org) – Detailing the WPFD 2021 Conference held in Windhoek for its 30th anniversary.

World Press Freedom Day 2020: statement by Media Freedom Coalition – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) – Statement from the Media Freedom Coalition on WPFD 2020.

FCO/FCDO, Media Freedom Coalition: an overview, 7 April 2021

Freedom of the Press Foundation

Reporters Without Borders