23.04.2008 -

World Press Freedom Day celebration to focus on access to information and empowerment

Mexican freelance investigative journalist Lydia Cacho Ribeiro will receive this year's UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize in a ceremony UNESCO is organizing in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, to mark World Press Freedom Day, 3 May. The celebration of the Day will focus on access to information and empowerment, the subject of a conference entitled Freedom of Expression, Access to Information and the Empowerment of People, on 2 and 3 May.

In a message on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, <a href="http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=32452&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html">Koïchiro Matsuura, the Director-General of UNESCO</a>, stresses that "press freedom and access to information feed into the wider development objective of empowering people by giving people the information that can help them gain control over their own lives. This empowerment," he argues, "supports participatory democracy by giving citizens the capacity to engage in public debate and to hold governments and others accountable."


Experience shows, however, that a suitable legal and regulatory environment is required for freedom of expression to become reality. Such an environment must also ensure access to information, especially information in the public domain. But the media can only play their part in empowering people, if their consumers have the necessary literacy skills to analyze and question the information they receive.


Access to information is primordial to the exercise of the basic human right of freedom of expression. To be free, the media need to have access to information. Such access is also indispensable in fighting corruption, which has been defined as the primary obstacle to development.


The contribution of the media to empowerment will be the subject of the first session of the Conference which will be opened by <a href="http://portal.unesco.org/ci/en/ev.php-URL_ID=21748&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html">UNESCO's Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, Abdul Waheed Khan</a> and by a senior representative of the government of Mozambique. The subject will be examined by a panel of international media professionals (9.30 a.m., Friday, 2 May).


The role of community media and their ability to provide an interactive communication platform for vulnerable and marginalized populations will be examined in the afternoon (2.30 to 4.30 p.m.).


On Saturday 3 May, a panel moderated by Faith Pansy Tlakula, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, will examine the complex issue of access to information: the availability of information technology resources, levels of media literacy as well as levels of government disclosure and cooperation.


At the end of the conference, in the late morning of 3 May, the media professionals taking part in the event are expected to adopt a declaration on freedom of expression, access to information and empowerment.


The ceremony and award of the UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize supported by the Ottaway and Cano foundations will start at 4.30 p.m. on 3 May with a welcome address by Graça Machel, President of <a href="http://www.unesco.org/ncp/index.php?lc=E&module=national_commissions&rid=343">Mozambique's National UNESCO Commission</a>. Other notable speakers scheduled to take part at the event include Armando Guebuza, President of the Republic of Mozambique, the Director-General of UNESCO and the laureate of the 2008 award, Mexican investigative journalist <a href="http://portal.unesco.org/ci/en/ev.php-URL_ID=26413&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html">Lydia Cacho Ribeiro</a> whose work has uncovered the involvement of businessmen, politicians and drug traffickers in prostitution and child pornography.

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