United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) Statement on the 30th World Press Freedom Day
03 May 2023
Baghdad, 3 May 2023 – This year, World Press Freedom Day is marked under the theme "Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of Expression as a driver for all other Human Rights."
Freedom of expression is essential for the functioning of all democratic societies, and a free and independent media serves to promote the healthy exchange of ideas and opinions. It not only increases transparency but is also a critical tool for letting authorities and leaders know when their policies are not having the intended effect, for enabling institutions to adapt and thus to flourish.
That said, across the country, the United Nations continues to document ongoing cases of harassment and intimidation, as well as retribution through both legal means and violence, against those exercising their right to freedom of expression.
Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, stressed, “Silencing, obstructing, dismissing, or undermining public discourse achieves two things only: it tarnishes the image of the State and erodes public trust. This in turn creates a ripple effect, deterring an open and public dialogue."
It is vital to ensure that anyone can express him or herself freely and without fear of reprisals. This includes guaranteeing that the legal framework protects, rather than unduly restricts, speech. When laws are used to silence, freedom of expression comes under grave threat, thereby undermining one of the most fundamental building blocks of a democratic society.
The United Nations remains committed to supporting Iraqis in defending freedom of expression and other fundamental rights.