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World Press Freedom Day: 'Professional journalism vital'

World
Johannesburg – In a “post-truth” world with “fake news” on the rise, and media accountability and credibility falling under question – free, independent and professional journalism has never been more important, the United Nations said.

“We need leaders to defend a free media. This is crucial to counter prevailing misinformation. And we need everyone to stand for our right to truth,” Secretary-General António Guterres said in a message to mark World Press Freedom Day on Wednesday. This year's theme highlighted the media's role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies and builds on the theme 'Critical Minds for Critical Times.'

The 2017 commemoration comes at a time when “free, independent and pluralistic media has never been so important to empower individual women and men, strengthen good governance and the rule of law, and take forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural (UNESCO) said in a statement.

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The agency is also tasked with defending press freedom and the safety of journalists, and is spearheading the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

“Far too often, murder remains the most tragic form of censorship,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in her message on the Day, noting that 102 journalists were killed in 2016.

She said that “facing a crisis of audience identity, journalism stands before a horizon where old challenges are merging with new threats,” which include the Internet's blurring of the lines between advertising and editorial material, businesses pushing for profits and private censorship.

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