Friday June 21, 2019
Home India May 3: World ...

May 3: World Press Freedom Day

May 3 commemorates the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek

0
//
Source: Wikimedia Commons

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

Next Story

New Hope for Ethiopian Journalists to Commemorate World Press Freedom Day

In a speech at the African Union headquarters to commemorate World Press Freedom Day, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed encouraged journalists to “seize” the moment

0
freedom, journalists, ethiopia
Abiy Ahmed, prime minister of Ethiopia, speaks during the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize ceremony in Addis Ababa, May 2, 2019. VOA

This story originated in the Amharic service. Salem Solomon contributed to the story.

Ethiopia’s historic strides toward democracy and openness have given journalists in the country hope for greater freedom to report the news.

In a speech at the African Union headquarters to commemorate World Press Freedom Day, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed encouraged journalists to “seize” the moment.

But he also cautioned restraint.

“We need to ensure that the opening up of the media space does not facilitate misinformation, the spread of hate speech and fake news,” Abiy said. “The pivotal moment that Ethiopia is in right now to help into its true potential can only be realized when those who are tasked with a duty to inform are aware of the responsibilities that come with such freedoms.”

journalists, ethiopia, freedom
Abiy Ahmed, prime minister of Ethiopia, and Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO’s director-general, attend the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize ceremony in Addis Ababa, o May 2, 2019. – The ceremony, hosted by the Ethiopian government, is part of the World Press Day event organized by UNESCO in the city of Addis Ababa. VOA

A delicate balance

Last year, Abiy made worldwide news when he released all journalists held in Ethiopian jails. It marked the first time in 14 years that no journalists were behind bars in the country, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported.

Ethiopia also opened up internet access and unblocked about 260 websites.

Ethiopian journalists attending the event, organized by UNESCO, said working for more press freedom while dealing with the threat posed by irresponsible media is a difficult balancing act.

Tsedale Lemma, the editor-in-chief of Addis Standard, a weekly independent magazine, said the press must meet high standards and report with integrity in the wake of newfound freedoms.

“For far too long, we’ve been asking the government to liberalize the media, to lift its pressure on the media, its suppression on the media. A lot of sacrifices have been paid by many, many journalists throughout the past many years, and now that that time arrived, it sort of caught us unprepared,” she said.

Tsedale worries about the rise of what she calls “populist media” that sensationalizes news and stirs up ethnic hatred in the country. She said it is the job of the press to police itself, with government assistance.

“It is a delicate balance that we need to diligently thread through, and the government needs to pay attention not in a way of bringing back its suppression but in a way of supporting genuine journalists who are trying hard to do professional journalism,” she said.

journalists, ethiopia, freedom
Hamid Mir, journalist and member of the jury, speaks during the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize ceremony in Addis Ababa, May 2, 2019. The ceremony, hosted by the Ethiopian government, is part of the World Press Day event organized by UNESCO. VOA

Ethiopia offers hope

Worldwide, about 100 journalists were killed in the past year, and more than 300 remain in prison.

But some international attendees at the conference found hope in Ethiopia’s achievements.

ALSO READ: Break in Torrential Rains Helps Cyclone Aid Workers to Make Progress in Reaching to Mozambique

Hamid Mir, a Pakistani journalist, told VOA’s Amharic service that he did not expect to find Ethiopia hosting an event to commemorate press freedom.

“It was a great surprise for me that, in just one year, in 2018, Ethiopia was a country where lots of journalists were behind the bars,” he said. “When the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came into power, he liberalized the media. He released all political prisoners, and many journalists they were also released.” (VOA)