World Press Freedom Day 2023

  • 02 May 2023

This year marks 30 years since the proclamation of an international day for press freedom. The NEC has committed to prioritise work on this area, recognising the importance of World Press Freedom Day (3 May).

“Shaping a Future of Rights – Freedom of Expression as a driver for all other human rights” lies at the heart of this year’s World Press Freedom Day. The theme chosen by the United Nations recognises a need for continued efforts to ensure media freedom prevails worldwide, and the rights of journalists are protected. On 2 May, Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, joined 15 other International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) affiliates representing journalists at the 30th anniversary UNESCO World Press Freedom Day event at the UN headquarters. 

She said:

"On World Press Freedom Day, we renew our commitment to campaign alongside the NUJ Parliamentary Group on press freedom and the right of journalists to hold the powerful to account without fear of persecution. At our Delegate Meeting last week, the union pledged to prioritise work on this area, while paying tribute to all those killed over the past 17 months for their reporting. 

"Attacks on journalists and efforts to stymie reporting are attacks on democracy and press freedom. The NUJ renews its fight to challenge such threats on behalf of members, and in defence of a free press."

At the NUJ’s Delegate Meeting last week, members paid tribute to colleagues killed in 2022 and 2023 including journalist Dom Phillips, murdered alongside indigenous expert Bruno Pereira in Brazil. A minute’s silence marking International Workers’ Memorial Day saw the names of journalists who’ve passed away in this period shared with delegates.

The NUJ’s National Executive Council said:

On 27 March 2023, Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested in Yekaterinburg in the Urals in connection with claims by the Russian security service that he gathered classified information. President Biden has condemned his detention as ‘totally illegal’ and there has been widespread condemnation from journalists and press freedom organisations around the world.

In April 2023, journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza was jailed in Russia for 25 years on charges of ‘treason’ and ‘discrediting Russia’s armed forces’. The British ambassador to Russia, who attended the trial, described the case as shocking.

Similar, but less publicised threats to press freedom can be found all over the world. In Mexico, for example, 19 journalists were killed in 2022 alone. At the end of that year, 532 journalists around the world were known to be in jail – nearly 100 in China alone.

Western governments are loud in their condemnation of the ill-treatment of journalists when it is committed by countries of which they disapprove, for example Russia. Simultaneously cases in countries such as Myanmar, Iran and Turkey receive little attention, while the US and the UK collaborate in the persecution of Julian Assange for activities that are conducted by journalists daily.

Double standards underline the importance of supra-national events such as the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day, which celebrates its 30th anniversary on 3 May 2023, and at which the NUJ will be represented by our general secretary.

Journalists are among the most important defenders of press freedom and encouraging NUJ members to make this part of their own work should be central to our union’s mission.

The NUJ will make work on press freedom a priority in the coming cycle and continue to place special emphasis on World Press Freedom Day in the course of the union’s future work.

The International Federation of Journalists’ (IFJ) annual list of media workers killed, indicates 68 journalists lost their lives in 2022. Russia’s war on Ukraine led to 12 journalists killed but journalists from countries including Mexico, Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey were also murdered. This year, five journalists have been killed during the course of their work.

Domonique Davies, Dom Phillips' niece addressed DM, and stressed defenders of the Amazon were “being killed because of devastating and unsustainable activities.” Read more on Domonique's speech.

Journalists reporting on environmental issues are often targeted by those attempting to conceal illegal activity and the NUJ has joined the IFJ in calling on governments to take action to ensure the safety of journalists.

NUJ campaigning

The NUJ has been campaigning to improve the safety of journalists and launched a short film last year featuring members sharing the unacceptable abuse and harassment encountered as part of their work.

Julian Assange

The union opposes the United States’ efforts to extradite Julian Assange and has highlighted the grave dangers for journalism and journalists, should the US government be successful in its pursuit. The NUJ continues to call for charges against Assange to be dropped, and last week hosted an online event raising awareness about the ongoing campaign.

Just Stop Oil protests

In November 2022, the NUJ’s intervention alongside public anger about the arrests and detention of journalists reporting at Just Stop Oil protests led to a review by Cambridgeshire constabulary of Hertfordshire constabulary’s actions. The breach of journalists’ rights and clear threat to press freedom was condemned by the union and the independent review found the powers of officers had not been used appropriately. The union’s campaigning on the Public Order Bill saw an amendment introduced to protect journalists covering protests.


The NUJ’s Parliamentary Group has raised union concerns in UK parliament over legislation threatening the ability of journalists to carry out their work. Strategic lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) are lawsuits against journalists designed to intimidate and stymie reporting preventing publication of stories in the public interest.

Despite a commitment from the UK government in July 2022 to bring forth legislation for England and Wales, this is yet to occur. The union has provided a submission to Scotland’s Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee and the NUJ holds a seat on the Irish Anti SLAPPs alliance, campaigning against the lawsuits’ use in Ireland.

The NUJ has also opposed harmful proposals in the National Security Bill through our seat alongside stakeholders on the National Security Bill coalition. The chilling effect created by plans threatens press freedom, with government conflating journalists with spies through legislation.

Find out more about World Press Freedom Day.

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