Information is life. People cannot make a living, hold their governments accountable, or educate their children without a healthy supply of free-flowing information.
Citizens need accurate, timely, independent news they can trust. So do businesses and markets – and governments.
Media freedom keeps societies and economies vibrant, energetic, and healthy. When the free flow of news and information is cut off, individuals suffer. Societies and economies suffer.
Media freedom is enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Leadership of the media – whether for print, broadcast, Internet or social media – is critical to the development of a free press. It provides the vision and ethical framework for reporting and journalism that earns and maintains public trust.
The true leaders of the media industry in Africa are those who mentor and inspire the next generation of journalists to overcome the challenges they face – lack of access to information, censorship, personal threats.
We’re watching enormous changes taking place in Africa, and the US is proud to work with African partners to support those changes.
Through democratic elections and new constitutions, economic growth led by innovation and entrepreneurship, renewed focus on education, and the inclusion of women and young people in decision-making, the progress is tremendous.
The implementation of a Freedom of Information Act in Nigeria is a great example of how access to information is strengthening democratic governance.
There are many examples of emerging best practices. Collaborating with local organisations, the US embassy in Harare created a mentoring programme for women journalists, giving them the tools and resources to contribute to the public conversation in that country.
The African Media Initiative, with its partners, launched the African News Innovation Challenge, a comprehensive and long-term programme to support professional development and leadership in journalism, expanding networks across the continent and internationally.
Transparency, accountability, and integrity are fundamental concepts that apply to all sectors, including journalism, and media leaders should model that behaviour and mentor it in others.
Too many challenges remain in Africa – in human rights, hunger, disease, war and conflict. As in business, media entrepreneurship requires thinking big and taking risks to address those problems. Owners and directors must be ready to take risks, supporting journalists who take them day in and out.
As we celebrate this year's World Press Freedom Day, the US calls on all governments to take the steps necessary to create space for independent journalists to work without fear of violence or persecution.
We pay special tribute to those courageous journalists, bloggers, and citizens who have sacrificed their lives, health, or freedom so that others could know the truth.
Wharton is the deputy assistant secretary in the US State Department.