World Press Freedom Day
World Press Freedom Day is May 3rd
World Press Freedom Day is a UN observance to promote a free press and to stand up to our right for truth and to protect journalists.
Today 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. This day is a reminder that dozens of countries around the world still censor publications, fine, suspend, and even close down people/business for such acts. Journalists, editors, and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained, and even murdered for expressing freedom of press. The United Nations declared World Press Freedom Day to honor journalists who have died searching for the truth, who bring power to account and who defend the media’s independence.
How It All Began
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.
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 a sustainable peace. The theme of the day aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set by the UN General Assembly in 2015. SDG 16, for example, concerns issues of peace and democracy as preconditions for equitable and sustainable development. It states that: “When freedom of expression and safety of journalists are protected, the media can play a vital role in preventing conflict and in supporting peaceful democratic processes.” SDG 16.10 also urges states to “ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.”
Challenges Journalists Face and Response
According to the International Federation of Journalists, in 2018 alone, at least 94 journalists were killed. The 2018 data indicates an increase from the previous year which concluded with 82 fatalities. The data, presented by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), identifies slightly lower numbers of fatalities at 80 (with 49 deliberately killed and 31 killed while reporting). In response to these identified challenges, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland launched a joint initiative to “Defend Media Freedom” that aims to shine a spotlight on media abuses and address the trend of violence against journalists. On July 10-11, 2019, the UK and Canada will host the International Conference on Media Freedom to further the aims of the joint campaign. Another initiative is TrialWatch®, launched by the Clooney Foundation for Justice in cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the American Bar Association, Columbia Law School, and Microsoft. Among others, the initiative will monitor trials of journalists around the world to ensure that the judicial system is not used to silence journalists and curtail freedom of speech.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. It is time to take a strong stance on the challenges that are faced as a journalist or media outlet.
World Press Freedom Day exists to remind those who consume news why the news matters. Find more information about the day here.
How to Participate in World Press Freedom Day
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
Spend today bringing awareness and educating others to make a difference.