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May 3: World Press Freedom Day

May 3 commemorates the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek

What is World Press Freedom Day? Global observance that stresses that freedom of information is a fundamental human right, weighs the state of press freedom around the world, and is a reminder that in dozens of countries, publications are censored, fined and closed down, while journalists and editors are harassed, attacked, detained and sometimes murdered.

Why May 3? Date adopted by United Nations in 1993; commemorates the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek.

What is the Declaration of Windhoek? A statement of free press principles put together by newspaper journalists in Africa during a UNESCO seminar on “Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press” in Windhoek, Namibia, in 1991.

What does it do? Declaration of Windhoek calls for free, independent, pluralistic media worldwide, characterizing free press as essential to democracy and as a fundamental human right.

Milestones recognized on May 3, 2016

• 250th anniversary of the world’s first freedom of information law, covering both modern-day Sweden and Finland

• 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Windhoek of press freedom principles in Namibia.

• First year of the 15-year life cycle of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of goals adopted September 25, 2015, to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years.

WPFD conference

May 2-4, 2016, held in Helsinki, Finland, and being organized by UNESCO and Finnish Ministry for Education and Culture

UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize

Awarded to Khadija Ismayilova, an investigative journalist from Azerbaijan. Ismayilova served for two years as the Baku bureau chief for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Azerbaijani service, Radio Azadliq.

Ismayilova was initially arrested and jailed on December 5, 2014, on libel charges that international human rights groups said were trumped up. She was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison on charges relating to abuse of power and tax evasion. Human Rights Watch described the proceedings as a politically motivated prosecution, flawed trial, and a campaign to discredit her.

“Khadija Ismayilova highly deserves the prize and I am happy to see that her courage and professionalism are recognized,” said Ljiljana Zurovac, president of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2016 Jury.

The award is named after Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian journalist who was assassinated in front of the offices of his newspaper, El Espectador, in Bogotá in December 1986, after speaking out against drug cartels. (VOA)

Sources: UNESCO, Freedom House

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