Press freedom an 'essential element' of American foreign policy

Toner praised the Arab media scene, with Dubai as its hub.

by

Bernd Debusmann Jr.

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Mark Toner, Deputy Spokesperson for the US Dept of State speaking with UAE journalists at Arab Media Forum.
Mark Toner, Deputy Spokesperson for the US Dept of State speaking with UAE journalists at Arab Media Forum.

Published: Wed 11 May 2016, 3:04 PM

Last updated: Mon 30 Oct 2023, 12:50 PM

The US government considers media freedom an integral part of its diplomatic efforts, according to Mark Toner, Deputy Spokesperson for the US Department of State.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Arab Media Forum, Toner noted that "without a doubt, press freedom is always going to be an essential element of US foreign policy, just like human rights are an essential element of our foreign policy."

"In all of our multilateral, and especially bilateral relationships, we are always going to address the hard issues regarding human rights, including press freedom and harassment of journalists, when we have credible allegations of that," he added.

Toner noted, however, that diplomatic efforts regarding press freedom must be balanced with "broader strategic interests."

"That's the reality of diplomacy," he said, taking an example US efforts to raise human rights issues with the government of China while still maintaining a broader diplomatic relationship.

Additionally, Toner praised the Arab media scene, with Dubai as its hub.

"It's a really vibrant Arab media scene. These are sophisticated, professionally run media operations," he said. "They're impressive, and I think there is something to be said for the power of the marketplace. When you have a strong media market like you have in the Arab World, that sends a clear message."

"It does carry a weight that governments listen to and are aware of," he added. "I think that's a healthy dynamic."

In his remarks, Toner also said that any notion that the United States would "disengage" from the Arab World is false - regardless of which candidate emerges victorious in the upcoming US election.

"We're going to stay engaged. We've got long-term relations with the countries of the Gulf and Middle East, and frankly the issues aren't going away," he said. "Can I exclude that there aren't to going to be variations in our approach? No."

"Consistency is a really important part of foreign policy, and I don't expect any great sea change no matter who wins the elections," he added. "It's absolutely vital that we do stay engaged with the region."


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