Dear Guests, Good evening! It’s a pleasure to host this gathering to recognize World Press Freedom Day. A free, diverse, and independent press is a fundamental pillar of any successful democracy. A free press plays a role that is much deeper than just providing information, although that in itself is important. A free press holds those in power accountable, and gives a voice to those not in power to protect the diversity of views that makes societies stronger.
Today, however, it is more important than ever that a free press have high journalistic standards and integrity. Disinformation or misinformation in today’s media environment is rampant. Instead of informing citizens, disinformation distracts, and detracts from real discussion based on facts and reason. It is the duty of all journalists to fight disinformation by calling it out and countering it when it appears.
The official motto of the newspaper of record for Washington DC – the Washington Post – is “democracy dies in darkness”. It is the job of you – Armenia’s journalists, and of journalists all over the world – to illuminate the darkness – to shine a bright light on governments, institutions, and societies to make the path to truth clearer. Sometimes, however, shining those lights takes courage. It means uncovering truths that the wealthy or the powerful don’t want revealed. It can endanger your career, or sometimes, put you in physical danger.
We are all watching closely the wrongful detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in Russia. Journalism is not a crime, and we call on the Russia to immediately release him. And I was personally involved in efforts to help evacuate Fox News journalist Ben Hall, who was profoundly injured reporting from Ukraine one year ago. Two of his colleagues were killed in the attack. Ben is now thankfully back reporting from the State Department in Washington.
So to all of the journalists here to tonight, I want to express my deep respect and profound gratitude for your perseverance, your courage, and for the essential role you all play in protecting Armenia’s democracy.
The United States supports your work, and will continue to invest in strengthening the Armenian media sector—and ties between U.S and Armenian journalists.
The Embassy was proud to support the Public Journalism Club’s conference today on countering disinformation, and we hope your conversations shared best practices for combatting this growing threat.
And I wanted to highlight today two new investments in the Armenia media sector. First, USAID has signed a $15-million agreement to implement the “Media Program in Armenia” project with Internews Network to support journalism standards and financial viability. Second, our Embassy’s Public Diplomacy Section will be making a $2.3 million investment into graduate-level journalism education in Armenia and new U.S. exchange programs for professional journalists. More details on both of these initiatives will be announced later this year.
Finally, I want to say a few words about the top story this week: Secretary Blinken’s hosting of the Foreign Ministers from Armenia and Azerbaijan for peace talks in Washington. Our support for this process at the highest levels of the U.S. government underscores the United States’ commitment to a peaceful and prosperous future for Armenia, and the South Caucasus region. We welcome the progress that has been made, and we are hopeful that the parties can continue direct dialogue in the coming weeks. We continue to stress that ensuring the rights and security of the Nagorno-Karabakh population is critical to achieve a lasting peace.
So with that, allow me to wrap by thanking you for all you do. We are honored to be your partners in advancing the essential cause of press freedom, today on Press Freedom Day – and every day.