05.05.2014 - UNESCOPRESS

International Conference on Press Freedom at UNESCO

The international conference organized on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day opened at UNESCO Headquarters Monday. Subjects examined during the event included the safety of journalists, the fight against impunity, the growing importance of new forms of journalism and the need to include press freedom among the next United Nations international development goals.

Close to 300 participants representing the media, intergovernmental organizations, and NGOs took part in the two day event entitled, Media Freedom for a Better Future: Shaping the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Celebrated every year on 3 May, this year’s World Press Freedom Day event is the last to take place before the 2015 deadline of the Millennium Development Goals. The adoption of new goals could serve as an opportunity to include freedom of expression and press freedom in the next development agenda. This is expected to be the main subject of the Declaration participants are expected to adopt at the end of the conference.

“UNESCO has been at the forefront of promoting a vision of human development that integrates free expression, and its corollary of press freedom,” declared Getachew Engida, Deputy Director-General of UNESCO, as he opened the meeting. “These matters too will be part of our focus in the next two days,” he said after recalling the need to provide adequate security to media professionals and citizen journalists wherever they may be.

“The safety of journalists is an indicator of the health of freedom of expression and press freedom,” argued the Deputy Director-General. “The safety of journalists is about individual rights and dignity. It is about the rights and dignity of entire societies,” he said.

In 2013, the Director-General of UNESCO condemned the killing of 92 journalists but most of these crimes go unpunished. According to a UNESCO report issued in March this year, World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development, only seven cases of the 430 killings of journalists tallied between 2007 and 2012 have been reported as solved.

“Clearly, whosoever provides information becomes a target,” maintained Rémy Pfimlin, President of public broadcaster France Télévision. “The safety of information providers is a political issue facing all States in the world,” he added.

Turkish investigative journalist Ahmet Şık, who received this year’s UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, declared that “every oppressive regime creates its own media.” He denounced reporters ready to accept such conditions, saying: “Journalists imprison themselves through self-censorship. They live behind invisible bars.”

The conference taking place at UNESCO until 6 May is bringing together participants from 87 countries and 74 speakers, including Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression; Peter Horrocks, Director, BBC World Service; Moez Chakchouk, Director, Tunisian Internet Agency; Mostefa Souag, Acting Managing Director, Aljazeera Media Network; and Neïmatou Coulibaly, Director, Le Combat (Mali).

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