10.05.2017 - UNESCO Office in Nairobi

World Press Freedom Day Celebrations in Eastern Africa underlines media’s critical role in SDGs Achievement


World Press Freedom Day was celebrated last 3 May in Kenya, Rwanda, Djibouti, Somalia and South Sudan to foster Safety of Journalists, Press Freedom and for adressing hate speech concerns.

The 2017 World Press Freedom Day has offered a platform for fostering Safety of Journalists, Press Freedom and for addressing hate speech concerns in Eastern Africa, thus contributing to achievement of just and peaceful and inclusive societies as outlined in the SDG 16.

Under the global theme “Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies”, the media partners in Eastern Africa, organized various events at the national level, to mark World Press Freedom Day.

Key focus in Kenya, Rwanda, Djibouti, Somalia and in South Sudan was on why it is vital to strengthen free and quality journalism, balancing between fundamental rights including freedom of expression and the defence of human dignity, liberty and equality and how the media can effectively contribute to the achievement of peaceful, just and inclusive societies, by interrogating the interrelationships between freedom of expression, hate speech, justice for all and the rule of law.

“There is a need to strengthen free and quality journalism in order to enable the media to contribute effectively to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal”, said Ms Ann Therese Ndong Jatta, Director of the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa. She was speaking at the World Press Freedom Day celebrations held in Djibouti under the theme Freedom of expression and freedom of information foster more inclusive societies.

South Sudan marked the day though a two-day National conference with media stakeholders in exploring ways that the media can contribute to countering hate speech. “What is hate speech in our local languages?” Nichodemus Ajak the Information Commissioner in South Sudan posed this question to the participants. He further emphasised on the urgent need for media and information literacy in South Sudan, to enable the citizens understand what constitutes hate speech and in their local languages. “Balancing between fundamental rights including freedom of expression and the defence of human dignity, liberty and equality is complex” remarked Lydia Gachungi, the UNESCO Regional Expert on safety of journalists and media development. The remarks were made during a panel discussion on promoting the media’s potential as a catalyser of peace and mutual understanding, organised to mark this year’s World Press freedom Day in South Sudan. The issue of safety of journalists was also addressed and it is clear that the issue is complex and no single actor can singly handle all the safety of journalist’s concerns as well as strengthening the fight against impunity. A continued multistakeholder through a comprehensive safety mechanism should be pursued. There is need for putting in place an effective framework for preventing violence against journalists, protecting journalists in danger and prosecuting the perpetrators as outlined in the UNESCO guide on safety mechanisms.

The Kenya Media Sector Working group that has recently been established also celebrated the day through a one day journalists convention and media awards. The one-day event was framed around the global theme, while taking into account that the country’s preparation for the 2017 elections. The media stakeholders held panel discussions on topics such as media independence, professional journalism and counter narrative in mitigating conflict and hate speech as a public good for fair free and credible 2017 election.

In Hargeisa, World Press Freedom Day was celebrated by the Somaliland Journalists Association. The celebration was officiated by the chief justice and participants were drawn from human right defenders’ organizations, the civil society and the media fraternity who deliberated on how Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Information can foster a more inclusive society.

The Rwanda Media Commission (RMC), Rwanda Journalists Association (ARJ) and HUGUKA association localised the global theme by focusing on “Press Freedom in view of Rwandan Cultural Values”. A friendly football match was played which provided media practitioners and other stakeholders an opportunity to network and entrench the concept of Ubusabane within the media fraternity.

Eastern Africa has some of the countries that have been ranked in the global press freedom index as the worst violators of press freedom and safety of journalist. Even though the media in Eastern Africa faces many challenges, it still holds an important key to promoting tolerance, peaceful coexistence and democratic processes that will enable the UNESCO member states, achieve the 2030 Agenda.


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