JOINT MESSAGE ON OCCASION OF WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY
Paris, April 23 (No.2001-61) -
On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, celebrated on May 3, United Nations
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, UNESCO Director-General Koďchiro Matsuura and UN
High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson issued a joint message.
Below is the full text of the
“A free press is one of the
most essential components of a democratic society, which in turn is a
prerequisite for sustainable social and economic development.
“This fact has become more
and more widely understood and accepted in the ten years since 3 May 1991, when
African journalists gathered in the Namibian capital, Windhoek, for a regional
seminar on promoting independent and pluralist media. The Windhoek
Declaration became the first in a series of commitments, region by region, to
uphold the freedom of people everywhere to voice their opinions, and
their access to a variety of independent sources of information.
“Since 1991, the press in
many countries has become more independent and pluralistic. The airwaves have
been liberalised. Journalists and others working in the media have become more
professional. And, thanks to the Internet, more and more people have gained
direct access to the means of mass communication. These changes have helped to
establish and strengthen democracy in many countries, by enabling citizens to
make their voices heard and so to play a part in decisions that shape
their own lives and the future of their countries.
“Yet freedom of expression is
always fragile, and can never be taken for granted. In many parts of the world
today it is threatened by political, economic, financial, military, religious or
even criminal interests. Journalists whose work challenges such interests are
liable to suffer intimidation, violence, exile, prison, and even execution or
“Meanwhile, many ethnic and
religious groups - usually minorities - are prevented from using the media to
communicate their views or express their identity.
“Experience has shown that
even the most heinous regimes can gain popular support if they manage to muzzle
the media, or to manipulate it to arouse fear and hatred among their citizens.
Free, independent and pluralist media have an indispensable role to play in
rooting out racism and xenophobia. We hope that this
year's World Conference Against
Racism, Xenophobia, Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance will find ways
to strengthen free media throughout the world, and will remind media
professionals of their vital role in educating the public and fostering peace
and mutual respect among peoples.
“On this World Press Freedom
Day 2001, we call upon decision-makers at all levels to do whatever they
can to ensure that journalists can pursue their work unhindered and undeterred,
so that people throughout the world can benefit from the free flow of ideas.
“We urge journalists to
adhere to the highest standards of their profession; to refuse to lend their
skills to hate-mongering; and always to uphold the principle of impartiality.
“And we urge the
international community as a whole to defend and protect a fundamental human
right - the right to receive and impart information free from censorship,
through any media and regardless of frontiers.