May 3, 2023

World Press Freedom Day: An Empty Celebration?

Event Series: Free Speech at the Crossroads: International Dialogues

Showing the World Press Freedom Day: An Empty Celebration? Video

In December 1993, the United Nations established World Press Freedom Day to emphasize the importance of freedom of the press throughout the world. But even as Western and other democratic countries have declared their devotion to media freedom and access to information, powerful voices within some putatively democratic societies continue to malign and sow distrust in the media. Meanwhile, authoritarian governments that do not honor the virtues of an informed citizenry often persecute, imprison, and even murder journalists who report the truth. On World Press Freedom Day 2023, we ask how freedom of the press is faring as a fundamental human right. Is there much to celebrate this year?

This event is co-sponsored by the Free Speech Project (Georgetown University) and the Future of the Humanities Project (Georgetown University and Blackfriars Hall and Campion Hall, Oxford).


Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House, oversees a unique combination of analysis, advocacy, and direct support to frontline defenders of freedom, especially those working in closed authoritarian societies. He previously directed the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Levine Institute for Holocaust Education, prior to which he led the museum’s genocide prevention efforts. Abramowitz spent the first 24 years of his career at the Washington Post, where he was national editor and then White House correspondent.

Sharon Moshavi, president of the International Center for Journalists, joined the organization in 2007, first as digital media director, and later as senior vice president for new initiatives. Previously, she worked at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, helping promote and launch the first News Challenge. In more than 15 years as a journalist, she covered North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, Hamas’s rise in Gaza, India’s economic reforms, and the growth of Fox News and CNN.

Gabe Rottman directs the Technology and Press Freedom Project at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which integrates legal, policy, and public education efforts to protect newsgathering and First Amendment freedoms in the context of emerging technological challenges and opportunities. He previously opened PEN America’s Washington, D.C. office. Rottman was also deputy director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Freedom, Security, and Technology Project.

Jane Singer is research lead and professor of journalism innovation at City University of London. A former print and online journalist, she has been studying journalists' responses to digital technologies since the mid-1990s. Singer is especially interested in the impact of digital media on journalistic' roles, norms, practices and products. Her previous academic appointments have been at the University of Central Lancashire, the University of Iowa, and Colorado State University.

Michael Scott (moderator) is senior dean, fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford, college adviser for postgraduate students, and a member of the Las Casas Institute. He also serves as senior adviser to the president of Georgetown University. Scott previously was the pro-vice-chancellor at De Montfort University and founding vice-chancellor of Wrexham Glyndwr University.

Sanford J. Ungar (moderator), president emeritus of Goucher College, is director of the Free Speech Project at Georgetown University, which documents challenges to free expression in American education, government, and civil society. Director of the Voice of America under President Bill Clinton, he was also dean of the American University School of Communication and is a former co-host of "All Things Considered" on NPR.