U.S. National Statement to the Human Dimension Committee Meeting
As delivered by Public Affairs Counselor Mike Snyder
to the Human Dimension Committee Meeting
February 16, 2021
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I’d like to thank Ambassador Karlsen and RFoM Ribeiro for convening this important discussion on the challenges to media freedom today.
We have all seen the economic pressure that the COVID-19 pandemic has put on independent media, threatening the public’s access to diverse sources of ideas and information. We are also concerned some participating States have used the pandemic as a pretext to deepen their crackdown on independent media and media workers. Malign influence campaigns targeting our publics – from both state and non-state actors – are another urgent challenge, made more difficult as malign actors leverage the speed and reach of new technologies to spread disinformation. We must find effective responses that uphold our shared obligations and commitments to respect freedom of expression and media freedom.
Unfortunately, the draft decision on access to information discussed at the Tirana Ministerial did not reach consensus among all 57 participating States, but in light of today’s discussion, this topic deserves further consideration in advance of the Stockholm Ministerial Council meeting.
Multiple times in recent weeks, RFoM Ribeiro has expressed her concern about the damage disinformation can do to the profession of journalism. The carefully fact-checked information reported by journalists can be drowned out by those who deliberately promulgate often dangerous falsehoods. We have seen many examples of this phenomenon during the pandemic, and our organization needs to respond – not only with vigilance to call out disinformation and counter it with fact-based information, but also with other best practices, including media education plans to help our populations become better-informed media consumers.
This will not be an easy task, and it will require the cooperation of government actors, media outlets and journalists, civil society organizations, and academia. But it is the only way forward if we are to enable all people in the OSCE region to freely exercise their right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds. The discussion here today and the recommendations we have heard represent an important first step, and we thank the Norwegian committee chair, the RFoM, and the Swedish Chairpersonship for focusing us on these compelling and timely issues.
Thank you, Madam Chair.