15.05.2017 - UNESCO Office in Doha

Journalists, UN agencies and human rights bodies celebrate World Press Freedom Day in Doha


UNESCO Doha, the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner (OHCHR) Training & Documentation Centre for South West Asia and the Arab region and the Arab Network for National Human Rights Institutions (ANNHRI) invited journalists, academics and human rights bodies in Qatar on 15 may 2017 to take part in discussions on “media’s role in advancing peaceful, just, inclusive societies” to mark the global celebrations of World Press Freedom Day.

The event was hosted by the ANNHRI, at the National Human Rights Committee and brought together more than 45 media professionals, human rights advocates, UN agencies, and academics. Three panels were organized on the central role of freedom of expression and the right to access information in the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and particularly SDG 16 which focuses on building peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, the provision of access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels.

In her opening remarks, Anna Paolini, UNESCO Representative to the GCC and Yemen and Director of UNESCO Doha Office said: “As we celebrate World Press Freedom Day, we must look to ourselves as agents of change: each of us has a role to play, because each of us has a stake in access to information. Quality journalism and the right to information are central to achieving the SDGs. They serve as a prerequisite for combating gross economic inequalities, reversing climate change, and promoting women’s rights and reflect the degree of transparency within a society”.

“When addressing the freedom of press, we are addressing our own freedom. Professional, impartial, and truthful media is key in advancing peace, justice and equal citizenship in our region,” George Abu Al-Zulof, Head of the UN Training and Documentation Centre added.

Sultan bin Hassan Al Jamali, Executive Director of the Arab Network for National Human Rights Institutions, commented that “members of the network in the region work to strengthen freedom of expression and combat hate speech”. He also highlighted the constructive role the media must play in society, as a watchdog to counter discourses of hate and report on human rights violations and as a platform to contribute to peace and solidarity.

The first panel focused on the role of the media and media and information literacy in promoting dialogue. The digital age has vastly transformed communication and information processes and provided the means to the public to become content producers. Media and Information Literacy (MIL) serves as an effective way of countering misinformation online by empowering media consumers with the appropriate knowledge and tools to navigate the Internet wisely, and to interpret information critically.

“We must be aware of the various messages we face in our daily lives in various forms and differentiate between freedom of expression based on mutual respect and intentional hate speech. If we are free to express ourselves through constructive criticism and through meaningful dialogue in the media, we can solve a lot of problems and we can enable the media to play its role as a vector of dialogue and peace in all societies,” said Ahmed Al Mohannadi, a media and information literacy trainer and expert who also writes columns in local newspapers.

The second panel focused on best practices and approaches to combatting hate speech in the media and measures that can be put in place by media outlets, legislative bodies, civil society organizations and other relevant institutions to ensure that the media remains a platform for dialogue and understanding. 

The third panel focused on the role of social media and the importance of media and information literacy to educate and raise awareness among youth in Qatar about the need to use, understand and analyze the media, and particularly online media, in a responsible and critical manner. The panel also presented initiatives that were conducted to foster the positive role of the media among young people in the country, including QNA Kids.

Encouraging young people to use the media as a platform for dialogue, Tahani Al Hajri, an author, writer and social media influencer said it was important for people “to express their thoughts without hurting anyone, and to remember that social media platforms are the only space that give everyone the chance to share their opinions, so people shouldn’t try to control what other people write or say if it doesn’t match their thoughts and beliefs. We are meant to be different and unique, to complete each other and not to stand against one another”.

Khadija Hussain Abdulla, Editing Supervisor of QNA Kids at Qatar News Agency explained that QNA Kids seeks to provide young people with the skills to report the news through innovative training workshops and “aims to encourage the younger generation to pursue journalism careers in the future”.  

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