15.12.2008 -

UNESCO hosts winners of human rights media awards

In the framework of the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and of its article 19 ensuring the right of every individual to "freely seek, receive and impart information", last week UNESCO hosted in its Headquarter the 30 journalists winners of the 'Every Human Has Rights' Media Awards.

The winners were selected by a professional international jury for their contribution to illustrating the Declaration with "powerful and eye-opening stories". During a day-long meeting, they had an opportunity to discuss with UNESCO staff the Communication and Information Sector's programme and the challenges of promoting freedom of expression and human rights. Specialized NGOs based in Paris, such as Internews Europe, Panos Institute and the World Association of Newspapers, also joined the afternoon session.

During the meeting on 8 December 2008, the winner Pilirani Semu from Malawi raised the issue of the gap of capacity and resources for yet too many journalists in developing countries. Mary Fianko Akuffo from Ghana was awarded for the 'Most courageous investigation/best unpublished story' for her undercover investigative story unmasking a network of human traffickers in West Africa. She invited the international community to create mechanisms supporting legal defense of journalists under trial for their investigations.

Bernhard Drax, known as avatar draxtor in 'Second Life' and awarded for a reportage about virtual activism, suggested to UNESCO's Secretariat to support celebrations of World Press Freedom Day also in the popular virtual world software.

Interviewed about the challenges that journalists are facing while reporting about human rights, Imam Shofwan from Indonesia said the most difficult one is usually when perpetrators of human rights violations are still in power. While Svetlana Chuikina, online video reporter from Kazakhstan, said that the presence of free press is a prerequisite for covering human rights issues.

The competition was organized by the NGO Internews-Europe and the Every Human Has Rights campaign supported by 'The Elders', with funding from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Open Society Institute and UNESCO. The winners were in Paris for an award celebration which took place on 6 December 2008 in the Maison des Arts et Metiers.

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