A free press is an indispensible pillar of any society. Journalists play a vital role in keeping the public informed and holding governments to account. Yet in many parts of the world they are under threat from terrorists, criminal gangs and state repression; already this year 23 journalists have been killed and nearly 350 imprisoned across the world.
World Press Freedom Day is a day to evaluate and defend press freedom around the world and is made more poignant this year by the memory of the terrible attack on Charlo Hebdo in Paris in January. The cold-blooded murder of journalists and cartoonists in the course of their daily business is a stark reminder of the risks they face on a daily basis. It reinforces the importance of defending the right to freedom of expression exercised by an increasingly broad spectrum of individuals, including bloggers, social media activists and traditional media organisations.
We have a duty to protect individuals from harassment and intimidation; but we should never confuse that duty with a temptation to censor or restrict views which we may find challenging, or even offensive. The freedom to openly challenge such views is an essential part of the intellectual life of any nation. That freedom is invaluable.