Firstly, I would like to thank my colleague, Foreign Minister Blok, for convening us here today in the margins of the World Press Freedom Conference.
As highlighted in today's Hague Commitment, freedom of expression and free, independent and plural media are important cornerstones for democratic, inclusive and peaceful societies. The Nordic region has experienced this first-hand.
With all the uncertainties that the COVID-19 pandemic has created; the role of media has never been as important. It is truly shocking to see how some governments have used the pandemic to crack down on media, civil society, and open debate.
Reporting on COVID-19 has also created safety risks for journalists, both on physical and legal safety. In Iceland journalists have been considered as essential workers during the pandemic.
We remain deeply concerned about attacks against journalists and media workers around the world. I would also like to highlight the importance of our commitment for the release of all arbitrarily detained journalists and media workers imprisoned for their work.
The gender gap and digital divide exist in the media sphere and we need to continue making sure that new digital opportunities become available to all. This is crucial on our path for building a better and more equitable future for all.
Iceland welcomes the work of UNESCO and the leadership of the Netherlands and other member states in fostering freedom of expression and advancing media development. With Iceland’s candidature to the UNESCO Executive Board, we hope to be able to contribute even more to the work for a free media environment globally.