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Promoting a free press is standing up for our right to truth, UN Secretary-General

"Promoting a free press is standing up for our right to truth, " says the Secretary-General in his message for World Press Freedom Day (3 May) 2018. "Journalists and media workers shine a light on local and global challenges and tell the stories that need to be told. Their service to the public is invaluable.”

World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of UNESCO's General Conference. It is an opportunity to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom; assess the state of press freedom throughout the world; defend the media from attacks on their independence; and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

The theme of the 2018 celebration, “Keeping power in check: media, justice and the rule of law”, highlights the importance of an enabling legal environment for press freedom, and gives special attention to the role of an independent judiciary in ensuring legal guarantees for press freedom and the prosecution of crimes against journalists. Journalism has become a increasingly dangerous activity.

In 2017, 79 journalists were assassinated worldwide in the exercise of their profession. UNESCO is committed to defending the safety of journalists and fighting against impunity for crimes committed against them. It also contributes to their training and helps the authorities in different countries to adapt their laws on freedom of expression to international standards.

The theme for 2018 also addresses the role of the media in sustainable development, especially during elections - as a watchdog fostering transparency, accountability and the rule of law. The theme also aims to explore legislative gaps with regard to freedom of expression and information online, and the risks of regulating online speech.

According to Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, “Freedom of the press, like any other freedom, is never completely secure. The development of a knowledge and information-based society via digital channels implies heightened vigilance, to ensure the essential criteria of transparency, free access and quality”.

Quality information requires working to check sources and select pertinent subjects; it calls for ethics and an independence of mind. It thus depends entirely on the work of journalists." World Press Freedom Day is also an opportunity to highlight the crucial role played by this profession in defending and preserving the democratic rule of law.

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Full message of the UN Secretary-General  

Full message of the Secretary-General of UNESCO 

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Women journalists in Afghanistan, defiant in the face of violence

The cold-blooded murder took place just days before World Press Freedom Day marked annually on May 3rd.

Outside the Afghan capital, the dangers of reporting the news, particularly as a woman, have never been so apparent.

Sediqa Sherzai is the news director of Radio-TV Roshani, a media organization In Kunduz in the north of Afghanistan. Her female reporters are under constant threat not only from insurgents but also from men who do not want women to work in the media.

“When insurgents seized Kunduz in 2015, they came immediately for our station because they didn’t like our content focused on women’s rights,” she said. “Even though most of our reporters fled in advance of their arrival. They looted our equipment and destroyed what they could not take.”

Elections

Despite the challenges of working as a woman in the media in a conservative and conflict-affected country, Sediqa Sherzai is committed to ensuring that the voices of Afghan women area heard ahead of the country’s elections slated for October this year.

In the volatile province of Kunduz where some territory is beyond government control, women say they fear to speak to the media and talk about human rights, much less advocate openly for democracy and change. Even Sediqa Sherzai and her staff of women shy away from photographs, cautiously protecting their identities.

Elections are considered essential to solidify fragile the social and human rights advances made during the last 17 years. The struggle for full women’s suffrage in Afghanistan, reminiscent of similar fights in centuries past in other nations, has gained broader international support in the last two decades.

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[ read the full story on UN News ]

 

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Message on World Press Freedom Day

THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

3 May 2018

A free press is essential for peace, justice and human rights for all.

It is crucial to building transparent and democratic societies and keeping those in power accountable.

It is vital for sustainable development.

Journalists and media workers shine a light on local and global challenges and tell the stories that need to be told.

Their service to the public is invaluable.

Laws that protect independent journalism, freedom of expression and the right to information need to be adopted, implemented and enforced.

Crimes against journalists must be prosecuted.

On World Press Freedom Day 2018, I call on governments to strengthen press freedom, and to protect journalists.

Promoting a free press is standing up for our right to truth.

Thank you.

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UN rights chief decries ‘unacceptable attack’ on Al Jazeera and other media

30 June 2017 – The United Nations human rights chief today expressed strong concern about international demands that Qatar close down the Al Jazeera network and other affiliated media outlets as “extraordinary, unprecedented and clearly unreasonable.”

[testimonial author="Rupert Colville" title="spokesperson for High Commissioner for Human Rights" avatar="../images/2017/colvilleRupert.png"  icon="icon" ]

whether or not you watch it, like it, or agree with its editorial standpoints, Al Jazeera’s Arabic and English channels are legitimate, and have many millions of viewers.

[/testimonial]

Rupert Colville added that “the demand that they be summarily closed down is, in our view, an unacceptable attack on the right to freedom of expression and opinion.”

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar in early June. The countries last week gave Qatar 10 days to comply with a list of demands to end the diplomatic showdown, including the shutdown of Al Jazeera.

[ read the full story ]

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In 'post truth' era, leaders must defend objective, independent media, UN says

3 May 2017 – In a “post-truth” world with “fake news” on the rise, and media accountability and credibility falling under question, free, independent and professional journalism has never been more important, the United Nations today said.

“We need leaders to defend a free media. This is crucial to counter prevailing misinformation. And we need everyone to stand for our right to truth,” Secretary-General António Guterres said in a message to mark World Press Freedom Day.

This year's theme highlights media's role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies and builds on the theme 'Critical Minds for Critical Times.'

The 2017 commemoration comes at a time when “free, independent and pluralistic media has never been so important to empower individual women and men, strengthen good governance and the rule of law, and take forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural (UNESCO) said in a statement.

The agency is also tasked with defending press freedom and the safety of journalists, and is spearheading the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

“Far too often, murder remains the most tragic form of censorship,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in her message on the Day, noting that 102 journalists were killed in 2016.

She noted that “facing a crisis of audience identity, journalism stands before a horizon where old challenges are merging with new threats,” which include the Internet's blurring of the lines between advertising and editorial material, businesses pushing for profits and private censorship.

In her message, Ms. Bokova cited Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian journalist assassinated in 1986, whose name was lent to the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.He wrote: “Only the independence, the character, the objectivity and the good judgment of the journalist and the media can overcome the terrible storms of the new world that threaten freedom of information everywhere.”

Ms. Bokova noted those words, written two years prior to his death, “continue to resonate today, 33 years later.”

She called for “original, critical and well-researched journalism, guided by high professional, ethical standards and a quality media education” and for audiences who “have the right media and information literacy skills.”

Press Freedom is marked annually on 3 May. UNESCO's main celebration of this year's edition of the Day will take place in Jakarta, Indonesia, from 1 to 4 May.

The programme of the four-day conference has been designed to raise awareness of the importance of free and fact-based journalism in promoting peace and justice, and supporting the efficiency, accountability and inclusiveness of institutions, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs). The event is organized with the Government of Indonesia and the Indonesian Press Council.

During the event, Ms. Bokova will award the 2017 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize to Dawit Isaak, the imprisoned Eritrean-born journalist who will be represented by his daughter, Bethelem Isaak, during a ceremony hosted by Joko Widodo, the President of Indonesia.

In Geneva, a UN human rights expert welcomed the granting of the prize to Mr. Isaak, and urged Eritrea to free him.

“The Eritrean authorities should stop the practice of arrests and detention carried out without legal basis instantly,” said the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, in a new release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

A special event will be held at UN Headquarters in New York on Thursday.

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World Press Freedom Day

 World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a Recommendation adopted at the twenty-sixth session of UNESCO's General Conference in 1991. This in turn was a response to a call by African journalists who in 1991 produced the landmark Windhoek Declaration on media pluralism and independence.

image005It serves as an occasion to inform citizens of violations of press freedom - a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered.

At a time described by some as critical for journalism, World Press Freedom Day 2017 will focus on why it is vital to strengthen free and quality journalism to enable the media to effectively contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 16(link is external). Specifically, the interrelationships between freedom of expression, justice for all and the rule of law, peace, and inclusiveness will be explored.

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