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World Press Freedom Day

Written by Aksel Ritenis

World Press Freedom Day

3 May acts as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom and is also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics. Just as importantly, World Press Freedom Day is a day of support for media which are targets for the restraint, or abolition, of press freedom. It is also a day of remembrance for those journalists who lost their lives in the pursuit of a story.

 

Every year, 3 May is a date which celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom, to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.

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(link is external) on media pluralism and independence.

At the core of UNESCO’s mandate is freedom of the press and freedom of expression. UNESCO believes that these freedoms allow for mutual understanding to build sustainable peace.

It 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.

It is a date to encourage and develop initiatives in favour of press freedom, and to assess the state of press freedom worldwide.

Message from Ms Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day 3 May 2021

Thirty years ago today, journalists, editors, and publishers from across Africa gathered to draft a call for press freedom, the “Declaration of Windhoek on Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press”. This landmark Declaration aimed to make the free flow of information a public good – a goal that still resonates today.
Since 1991, the information landscape has undergone tremendous changes, especially with the advent of the Internet and social media. We now have incredible opportunities to express ourselves, stay informed, and connect with others. But we are also facing a rise in misinformation and hate speech, the upending of media business models, and the concentration of power in the hands of just a few private companies.
The pandemic has underlined the need for reliable information. It is independent journalism that has helped us make sense of this crisis. Journalists have reported from the field, even at great personal risk. Many have been threatened, detained, harassed – especially women.
Sixty-two journalists were killed for their work in 2020, and many more lost their lives to COVID-19. We owe them a debt of gratitude. The pandemic has also exacerbated existing challenges, with numerous media now facing financial losses. The power of Internet platforms has been further entrenched, with lockdowns forcing much of daily life online. And false information and rumors have flourished, in some cases with fatal consequences.

The theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day, “Information as a Public Good”, underlines the indisputable importance of verified and reliable information. It calls attention to the essential role of free and professional journalists in producing and disseminating this information, by tackling misinformation and other harmful content.

This year’s World Press Freedom Day theme “Information as a Public Good” serves as a call to affirm the importance of cherishing information as a public good, and exploring what can be done in the production, distribution and reception of content to strengthen journalism, and to advance transparency and empowerment while leaving no one behind.
The theme is of urgent relevance to all countries across the world. It recognizes the changing communications system that is impacting on our health, our human rights, democracies and sustainable development.

To underline the importance of information within our online media environment, WPFD 2021 will highlight three key topics:

  • Steps to ensure the economic viability of news media;
  • Mechanisms for ensuring transparency of Internet companies;
  • Enhanced Media and Information Literacy (MIL) capacities that enable people to recognize and value, as well as defend and demand, journalism as a vital part of information as a public good.

About the author

Aksel Ritenis

Publisher and Custodian of the Sydney Times

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