Luncheon in New York focuses on information for empowerment
More than 75 United Nations delegates, journalists and representatives of media advocacy groups attended the World Press Freedom Day luncheon programme held at the UN Secretariat on 3 May. In line with the theme of this year, the event focused on the basic role of media, which is information for empowerment.
Participants particularly stressed that the right to information is a precondition of all other rights, such as the right to food and shelter, the right to education, or the right to vote. In the context when the international community has to intervene more frequently in post-conflict and post-disaster situations, the right to know is more important than ever.
Mujahid Kakar, Director of News and Current Affairs at Afghanistan's MOBY Media Group, and Garry Pierre-Pierre, editor and publisher of the Haitian Times, presented overviews of press freedom in Afghanistan and Haiti.
"Since international security forces overthrew the Taliban regime in 2001," Kakar said, "there has been remarkable growth in media outlets in Afghanistan, and the media has played an important role in facilitating social change by providing vital information and thus increasing public awareness." He added that there are currently more than 300 print publications, 285 radio stations and some 25 private television stations in Afghanistan.
Kakar also noted that, at the same time, the press must grapple with many obstacles, sometimes life-threatening. "Journalists are working in a very difficult environment. The Taliban and other groups use every instance to threaten journalists, while journalists do not have access to sources of official government information."
Sheila Coronel, Director of Columbia University's Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism and founder of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, echoed the concern about recent threats against journalists. "Whilst more governments are becoming transparent, journalists are still targeted when they report on corruption," she said. "Since 1992 the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has documented 808 deaths of journalists, many of whom were killed for reporting about official and criminal misconduct."
More than 80 countries throughout the world have approved access to information laws. But there is still a great need for more access to information on such topics as public finances or safety of products. There is, therefore, a constant struggle for the right to know.