THREE ‘Hurrahs for World Press Freedom Day/ World Press Day’ today, May 3, so-proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a Recommendation adopted at the 26th UNESCO General Conference in 1991.
This was in response to a call by African Journalists in their landmark 1991 ‘Windhoek Declaration on Media Pluralism and Independence!’
The underlying and overriding objective of the General Assembly was to raise awareness of the importance of Freedom of the Press – and remind governments of their duty to uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined in Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In consequence whereof, the world celebrated on May 3 “the fundamental principles of Press Freedom; evaluate Press Freedom around the world; defend the Mass Media Fraternity from attacks on their independence – and pay tribute to Journalists who’ve lost their lives in the exercise of their chosen profession.”
To mark the day, UNESCO identifies a global theme relating to Press Freedom, including good governance; media coverage of terrorism; impunity and media role in post-conflict countries – overall highlighting media partnerships and the protection of journalists.
UNESCO also brings together media professionals, press freedom organisations and UN Agencies to assess the state of Press Freedom worldwide and discuss solutions to the challenges.
Furthermore, the Organisation May 3 by conferring the ‘UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize’ on a deserving individual, organisation or institution that’s made an outstanding contribution to the defence and/or promotion of Press Freedom in the world – especially when that’s been achieved in the face of danger! Created in 1997, the Prize is awarded on the recommendation of an independent Jury of 14 news professionals.
Names are submitted by regional and international NGOs working for Press Freedom, as well as by UNESCO member-states. The Prize is named in honour of Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian Journalist who was assassinated in front of the offices of his newspaper, ‘El Espectador,’ in Bogotá, on December 17, 1986.
Reportedly, Cano’s writings had ‘offended’ Colombia’s powerful drug barons… Sheesh! Generally, Media Houses feature stories, interviews and in-depth reports on pressing issues related to Press Freedom, invariably based on the chosen Theme of the Year – and that year’s location for observing the event internationally.
The Year-2017 location is Jakarta, Indonesia – and the theme is ‘Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies.’ I found the themes down the years quite intriguing, and I take the liberty to share them with my esteemed readers herein below (with the year and location shown in brackets, beginning in 1998…): · ‘Press Freedom is a Cornerstone of Human Rights.’ *(London, England: 1998).* ·
‘Turbulent Eras: Generational Perspectives on Freedom of the Press. *(Bogotá, Colombia:1999).* · ‘Reporting the News in a Dangerous World: The Role of the Media in conflict settlement, reconciliation and peace-building
.’*(Genève, Switzerland: Year-2000).* · ‘Combatting racism and promoting diversity: The role of Free Press.’ *(Windhoek, Namibia: 2001. *Note: The event was held jointly with commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of the 1991 Windhoek Declaration – and was marked by signing the African Charter on Broadcasting). · ‘Covering the War on Global Terrorism.’ *(Manila, Philippines: 2002).
*· ‘The Media and Armed Conflict.’ *(Kingston, Jamaica: 2003).*
· ‘*Who decides how much information?’ *(Belgrade, Serbia: 2004).* · ‘Media and Good Governance.’ *(Dakar, Senegal: 2005).* · ‘The media as drivers of change.’ *(Colombo, Sri Lanka).*
· ‘The UN and the Freedom of Press.’
*(Medellín, Colombia: 2007).* · ‘Celebrating the fundamental principles of Press Freedom.’ *(Maputo, Mozambique: 2008).* · *‘*Dialogue, mutual understanding and reconciliation.’ *(Doha, Qatar: 2009).*
· ‘Freedom of Information: The right to know.’ *(Brisbane, Australia: 2010).* · *‘*21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers.’ *(Washington-D.C., USA: 2011).* · ‘New Voices: Media Freedom Helping to Transform Societies.’ *(Tunis, Tunisia: 2012).
* · ‘Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in all Media.’ *(San José, Costa Rica:2013).* · ‘Media Freedom for a Better Future: Shaping the post-2015 Development Agenda.’ *(Paris, France: 2014).* · ‘Let Journalism Thrive! Towards Better Reporting, Gender Equality and Media Safety in the Digital Age.’ *(Riga, Latvia: 2015).
* · ‘Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms.’ *(Helsinki, Finland: 2016).* The 50-state US – selfstyled ‘Land of Freedom ands Home of the Brave’ – has hosted World Press Freedom Day celebrations at the international level only once in the last 19 years/times: Year- 2011 in Washington-DC.
But what they called the ‘Dark Continent for ages, the 54-state African Continent, has done so FOUR times out of 19: in Namibia (Year- 2001); Senegal (2005); Mozambique (2008) and Tunisia (2012)!
Besides, the World Press Freedom Day concept was Africa-born, vide the 1991 ‘Windhoek Declaration’ Seems the US can learn something from Africa, after all… Hurrah – and Cheers!