Director-General calls for freedom of expression to be protected worldwide
On the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day, 3 May, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, is appealing to all governments to uphold their commitments in protecting and promoting freedom of expression and freedom of the press, which are the foundations of all democratic societies. Particular responsibility remains with the governments of the countries in the Middle East and North Africa to meet the aspirations of their people, notably for freedom of expression, a basic human right already largely reclaimed by the citizens of Egypt and Tunisia.
The Director-General also expressed deep concern over reoccurring attacks on journalists reporting on conflicts and social movements in the Middle East and Northern Africa.
“I welcome positive developments in recent months regarding freedom of expression and the progressive lifting of restrictions on press freedom in Egypt and Tunisia,” the Director-General of UNESCO said. “But I also urge other governments in the region to step up their efforts to meet the aspirations of their citizens and open the way for the full enjoyment of the basic human right of freedom of expression. The freedom to speak and the freedom to write are essential preconditions for the transition towards democracy and good governance,” Irina Bokova added.
The Director General also raised grave concern about the safety of journalists in the region in view of reports of continued attacks on reporters in Bahrain, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. She was particularly concerned about reports that journalists covering anti-government protests have been arrested, gone missing, been subjected to intimidation, threats and physical violence.
“Silencing the media or attempting to intimidate them is an unacceptable assault on the right of citizens to be informed," said the Director General. “I call on all countries in the world to respect the right to free expression, as laid down in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the right to freedom of information.”
Irina Bokova also pledged to maintain and enhance UNESCO’s support in assisting countries wishing to create an enabling environment for professional, free and independent media, notably in drafting constitutional and legislative frameworks mindful of democratic standards and practice.