10.05.2012 - UNESCO

World Press Freedom Day celebrated in East-Asia

Students from Press Institute visiting newsrooms on the occasion of WPFD – © School of Journalism, Press Institute

The 2012 World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) was celebrated in East-Asia with extended coverage by main media outlets; roundtable discussions among media professionals, decision makers and the civil society; as well as youth and academic events, and social media campaigns.

A roundtable about the 2012 WPFD theme, New Voices: Media Freedom Helping to Transform Societies, was held in Ulaanbaatar. It was co-organized by Globe International and Press Institute (Mongolian specialized media NGOs), together with the Confederation of Mongolian Journalists (CMJ) and with the support of UNESCO’s Beijing Office, the US Embassy in Mongolia and the Open Society Foundation.

During the roundtable, the outcomes of a one-month online discussion on the 2012 theme were presented by B. Galaarid, President of CMJ; M. Munkhmandah, Director of the Press Institute; and Prof. J. Batbaatar, Head of Journalism Department at the University of Education. The UN Representative in Mongolia, S. Sinanoglu, delivered the opening remarks, joined by A. Cairola, Advisor for Communication and information at UNESCO’s Office in Beijing, and G. Jagralsaikhan, Secretary General of the Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO. The event was broadcast live by Eagle TV.

Director of Globe International, H. Naranjargal, hold a special session on media and elections, warning on the dangers of biased reporting and “hidden PR” during an electoral campaign. In fact, the parliamentary elections in Mongolia are scheduled for next June, a historic crossroad for a country with a new electoral law, a booming economy in rapid transformation, and after that the 2008 parliamentary elections results were disputed with post-election riots claiming five lives. On the occasion of the roundtable, Globe International also launched the UNESCO-supported translation into Mongolian of the Coaching Manual for Media Support during elections, developed by International Media Support and Media & Democracy group.

During the event, the CMJ President made an appeal for the decriminalization of defamation (now punishable with up to 10 year of jail), while Globe International announced a “just-ask” campaign inquiring all election candidates about their view of the decriminalization of press offences. Representatives from the Parliament, the President’s Cabinet, media associations and the Communication Regulations Authority were also present. During a final open debate, participants discussed about the on-going media reform process, with media professionals highlighting the importance of enabling media self-regulations.

The marathon for WPFD in Mongolia continued with most of the print and electronic media dedicating articles and news to the celebration, and with the National Commission for UNESCO organizing an event for young scholars involving journalism students from the Otgontenger University, the University of the Humanities and the National University of Mongolia. Furthermore, the Press Institute organized a students' visit to main newsrooms in Ulaanbaatar, and Globe International awarded the provincial TV reporter T. Danaasuren for her courage, after she was assaulted together with the cameraman J. Tuvshintulga while covering incidents between local residents and guards from a mining company.

On the occasion of WPFD, the UNESCO Office in Beijing also posted online the joint message by the UN Secretary-General and the UNESCO Director-General on Sina Weibo, the most popular microblogging platform in China, with more than 300 million registered users. At the end of the Day, there were more than a thousand references about the WPFD on Weibo, posted by other UN agencies, media professionals, lawyers, scholars, professors, universities (Xi’an Euro-Asia Journalism and Communication Institute, Guizhou Normal University, etc.), NGOs and by the general public.

In Beijing the Embassies of the Czech Republic and of France in China organized a discussion on “Journalists as watchdogs of society” at the Institut Français. Moderated by Professor Zhan Jiang from the Department of International Journalism and Communication at the Beijing Foreign Languages University, the panellists were: the reporter Wang Keqin, the Guardian's Asia environment correspondent Jonathan Watts, and the blogger Zhang Wen. The online news service of Soho.com, an Internet company headquartered in Beijing, evoked the WPFD celebration and published the UN joint message.

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