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International Center for Journalists marks UN World Press Freedom Day with COVID-19 discussion

Updated: Jun 9, 2020

To mark United Nations World Press Freedom Day, the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and the Embassy of Sweden in Washington, D.C., hosted a discussion featuring three distinguished journalists who have worked in democratic countries and in those where media freedom is restricted.

The May 4 panel featured Cilla Benkӧ, the director-general of Swedish Radio and a board member with of European Broadcasting Union and the International News Safety Institute, Melinda Liu, the award-winning Beijing bureau chief for Newsweek magazine, who has lived and worked in Beijing since 1998, and Jason Rezaian, a writer for Global Opinions at The Washington Post. Rezaian served as The Post's correspondent in Tehran from 2012 to 2016 and spent 544 days in an Iranian jail.

As they look to the future, these media leaders shared their views on everything from the dangers of governments concealing information and suppressing journalism to widespread misinformation on social media. ICFJ Senior Vice President Sharon Moshavi moderated the discussion.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Liu said citizens depend on "small circles, trust circles" for reliable information. She said the outbreak has resulted in "very clumsy propaganda."

Rezaian warned that the U.S. government had adopted some of the propaganda techniques of authoritarian nations.

"To see those things repeated in the U.S. and other democracies should be an eye-opener," he said.

During the pandemic, the media has an obligation to the truth and to public health, Rezaian argued.

"Journalists have the ability to amplify health information and save lives," he said. "We have the responsibility."

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