Obama calls for free press at his final White House correspondents' dinner

Washington: Recognising the contributions of journalists in a democracy, US President Barack Obama on Saturday, underlined the importance of a free press at a time when liberal ideals and independent media are under attack across the world.

At his final White House correspondents' dinner, Obama said that a free press is needed more than ever in this age when liberal democracies are under attack and when notions of objectivity, of free press, and of facts and evidence, were being undermined, and in some cases entirely ignored.

"And in such a climate, it's not enough just to give people a megaphone. And that's why your power and your responsibility to dig and to question, and to counter distortions and untruths is more important than even ever," Obama said.

The speech, heavily laced with jokes and satire, lasted for more than 30 minutes and Obama acknowledged that the institutions of media and governance are at times at variance.

President Barack Obama. PTI.

President Barack Obama. PTI.

But he said that taking a stand on behalf of what is true does not require shedding objectivity. "In fact, it is the essence of good journalism." He said that "this night is a testament to all of you who have devoted your lives to that idea, who push to shine a light on the truth every single day".

"I know that there are times when we've had differences and that's inherent in our institutional roles. That is true of every president and his press corps. But we've always shared the same goal to root our public discourse in the truth. To open the doors of this democracy. To do whatever we can to make our country and our world more free and more just," Obama said.

"I want to close my final White House correspondents' dinner by just saying thank you... It has been an honour and a privilege to work side by side with you to strengthen our democracy," Obama said.

"I've always appreciated the role that you have all played as equal partners in reaching these goals. Our free press is why we once again recognise the real journalists who uncover the horrifying scandal and brought some measure of justice for thousands of victims around the world."

Recognising some of them present at the dinner, Obama asked the audience for a big round of applause for them.

"A free press is why, once again, we honour Jason Rezaian. Last time this year we spoke of Jason's courage as he endured the isolation of an Iranian prison," he said.

"This year we see that courage in the flesh, and it's a living testament to the very idea of a free press and a reminder of the rising level of danger and political intimidation and the physical threats faced by reporters overseas," Obama said.

Obama said, he can make this commitment that as long as he holds this office his administration will continue to fight for the release of American journalists held against their will.

Updated Date: May 01, 2016 13:30 PM

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