10.05.2007 -

Afghan Media Marks 3rd May "World Press Freedom Day"

Afghan journalists' unions and media development agencies marked World Press Freedom Day at Intercontinental Hotel, Kabul, Afghanistan on May 3, 2007.

The Day was celebrated as an international and high-level event with support of UNESCO, UNAMA, UNIFEM, UNDP, multilateral agencies such as the European Union and diplomatic missions in Kabul. The second Vice-president of Afghanistan, senior Afghan officials including the Minister of Information and Culture and over 100 MPs (Members of Parliament) participated in the event.


In his message, read out by Mr. Shigeru Aoyagi, Director of UNESCO Kabul at the event, the UNESCO Director-General, Mr. Koichiro Matsuura notes that "World Press Freedom Day is an occasion to remind the world of the importance of protecting the fundamental human right of freedom of expression enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. With violence against media professionals constituting today one of the greatest threats to freedom of expression, I have decided to dedicate World Press Freedom Day 2007 to the theme of journalist safety".


The development of an independent and vibrant private media sector over the last five years is widely recognized in Afghanistan as one of the most important outcomes of the Bonn process said the second Vice-President of Afghanistan Karim Khalili Speaking in the Conference on Freedom of Media on 3rd May 2007 to mark World Press Freedom Day. "The Islamic Government of Afghanistan will not allow any circles to make obstacles and limit the activities of the media activists in the country. Government of Afghanistan deeply believes in democracy and freedom of expression based on the constitution and the other effective laws in the country".


Freedom of expression and information is important because it is a human right guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the Afghan Constitution said Ambassador Francesc Vendrell, Special Representative of the European Union for Afghanistan, in 3rd May. He added "In our view the composition of the regulating bodies should reflect a balanced representation of the different powers / segments of society and be able to function independently from direct government control.


The event coincides this year with the passage of the Media Law through Afghan Parliament, which has generated enormous debate among civil society and policy makers. According to UNESCO's regional advisor for media, Jacky Sutton, "Six months ago, when it started to become an issue, the role of the media in development and nation building was not really understood and the media law was considered something that only affected media professionals and institutions rather than society at large. Now it has become clear that this is not the case at all."


As part of the WPFD celebration, the Afghan media organizations awarded six "Courage in Journalism Awards" to Afghan media professionals who have shown outstanding courage in defending media freedoms. Prizewinners were selected by a committee made up of the main Afghan media unions and development organizations. Worldwide, the international media NGO, the Committee to Protect Journalists found that 55 journalists were killed in direct connection to their work in 2006 and it is investigating another 27 deaths to determine whether they were work-related.


Globally, UNESCO is supporting Press Freedom Day and in 2007 the main topics is "Press freedom, safety of journalists and impunity". Due to the 10th anniversary of UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize, this year's World Press Freedom Day will be celebrated in the city of Medellin, Colombia. Guillermo Cano, Director of the Colombian daily newspaper "El Espectador," was assassinated on December 17, 1986 in front of the newspaper's exit in Bogota by two hired killers.


UNESCO invites all participants to discuss the rising challenges to the safety of media professionals, identify the specific dangers journalists face when working in conflict areas, consider the problem of impunity with regard to attacks on journalists, and explore measures that can be taken to improve the safety of journalists.

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