Spring til indhold

Udenrigsministerens tale ved IPCs, The International Press Centre's, 40 års jubilæum, den 7. maj 2018  

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is always a pleasure to visit the International Press Centre here in Copenhagen and meet with representatives from the foreign press. Today especially, as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the IPC.
IPC was established in 1978 following The Helsinki Declaration from 1975 that specifically focused on the need to promote freedom of speech and freedom of the press in the Cold War Era. IPC was the first of its kind in the Nordic countries and has over the years welcomed thousands of press representatives from all over the world.

IPC is also the home of The Foreign Press Association in Denmark, which was founded in April 1935 by a handful of journalists who worked for foreign media. The Foreign Press Association is still going strong with around 60 members.
The mandate of the IPC has not changed, but today the International Press Centre promotes freedom of the press by offering professional assistance to visiting and permanent staff from foreign media, conducting press events in connection with official events in Denmark and assisting in organizing visits by journalists from abroad.

In Denmark we have a long tradition of freedom of speech and in 2017 the Danish government appointed a Freedom of Speech Commission to help qualify the debate about freedom of speech. The commission is set to conclude its work later this year.  
It is hopefully old news that freedom is very high on my political agenda. We work hard for a world with more democracy and more freedom; more freedom of speech, more freedom of assembly and more religious freedom.

But freedom of speech is not necessarily a matter of course globally, where we see constitutional rights under pressure. Even in Europe such values have been challenged.
The national and international protection of freedom of speech is a precondition for a well-functioning democracy that helps to further develop both society and the individual human being. Freedom of speech can contribute to social and political unity. And to ensure that authorities are held accountable. This is the case in Denmark as well as in fragile states and developing countries.

The work for free and independent media is a part of Denmark’s longstanding commitment to support human rights and develop civil society. Denmark has supported freedom of speech through our development cooperation for many years. Not least through our support for the NGO International Media Support, that works to promote freedom of speech in some of the most remote areas of the world.

But the last ten years or so society has been experiencing a totally new development in areas that have a substantial influence on freedom of speech – I am thinking primarily of the internet and social media. Social media platforms that are not governed by the same rules as traditional media houses. On platforms such as Facebook and Twitter users, on an individual basis, share content with other users. This connects people and provides platforms for communication, thereby supporting our possibilities to express ourselves and use our freedom of speech. But it also creates new challenges and risks. 

Social media has turned out to be excellent platforms for fake news – a term that we all unfortunately have had to get used to. This is not a new thing, but the broad distribution and targeted use of this tool is a new challenge. And with technology developing at a rapid pace, we have probably only seen the tip of the iceberg.

It is especially threatening when states deliberately use their resources to invent stories and create disinformation. And to create campaigns with the malign intention of manipulating democratic processes. We have seen examples of states deliberately using fake news and disinformation to try to influence the outcome of elections in other countries as well as the general perception of current international affairs.

It is essential that major online media and platforms are conscious about their responsibility and actively engage in the fight against illegal content and disinformation. Therefore, I encourage the industry to cooperate with governments and help address these issues.

I place great emphasis on defending our democracy and freedom rights in a time where we could be targeted by disinformation and attempts to influence democratic decisions in Denmark. It is not a question if, but a question of how, we strengthen our work to counter disinformation – it is of vital importance that the public continues to have 100 pct. trust in the outcome of elections and other democratic processes.

Freedom of speech and freedom of press cannot be taken for granted. We cannot expect that others will lead the battle for freedom of speech. Right now Denmark is a candidate for membership of the Human Rights Council. And we apply a consistent pressure in the EU to keep the flag of freedom flying high.

I hope that The International Press Centre will keep the flag of freedom of speech flying high the next 40 years and I wish you all the best in the future.

Thank you and enjoy the rest of the afternoon.