Pressing for Freedom: 20 years of World Press Freedom Day

For 20 years, May 3 has been a day when the world celebrates freedom of expression and stands together for its protection. This is the spirit of the 1991 Declaration of Windhoek, whose anniversary the United Nations General Assembly chose for World Press Freedom Day. UNESCO was instrumental in framing the Windhoek Declaration and works today to promote freedom of expression across the world.

We have experienced a revolution over the last 20 years. Newspapers have gone online and publish today through a multitude of media. The 24-hour news cycle has become the norm embraced by most networks, with news broadcasted around the world every minute of every day. Blogging, tweeting, and podcasting have opened vast new channels for sharing information and fostering expression. Citizen reporters are increasingly leading the news cycle, using mobile phones, especially in disaster and conflict areas.

The transformation of the media landscape has created exciting opportunities for exchange and dialogue, and for sharing knowledge and information. However, it has not translated into stronger respect for fundamental freedoms. Today, it has never been more urgent to promote and protect the fundamental human right enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This objective guides all UNESCO’s action, in both the real and the virtual worlds. Our position is firm—freedom of expression and access to information are crucial building blocks for democracy, development and dialogue.

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