UNESCO celebrates World Press Freedom Day: World governments urged to guarantee freedom of information
More than 300 participants attending UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day Conference in Brisbane (Queensland, Australia), have urged national governments to enact legislation guaranteeing the right of access for all to information held by public bodies at all levels, local, national and international.
The call was issued in the Brisbane Declaration adopted at the close of the conference, organized in collaboration with the School of Journalism of the University of Queensland on 2 and 3 May to mark World Press Freedom Day. Participants included 75 journalists from Pacific Island States, and media professionals from all other regions.
At the Conference, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, also presented this year’s UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize to Chilean investigative reporter Mónica González Mujica of Chile.
During her keynote address at the opening of the event on 2 May, the Director-General stressed UNESCO’s role as a champion of freedom of expression and the right to know, which are “indispensable for the attainment of all human rights and fundamental for strengthening democracy”.
“It is clear, also, that in a more direct way, individuals are seriously hampered in their everyday affairs if they do not have access to information that affects or has the potential to affect their lives,” the Director-General said, adding that: “Wherever you are in the world, when you have lived through a period of history during which your ‘right to know’ was severely restricted, you have a special grasp of what its absence entails - and you tend to have a very high regard, indeed, for freedom of information.”
At the ceremony for the World Press Freedom Prize, the Director-General pointed out, however, that freedom of information is not enough. She denounced the fact that “countless journalists all over the world continue to endure harassment, intimidation or physical assault in the course of defending our right to know.”
“I cannot emphasize strongly enough that national authorities have the primary obligation to prevent and punish crimes against journalists,” she said. “Today, I call upon governments everywhere to assume this responsibility as a matter of urgency.”
The Director-General praised the award winner Monica González Mujica as a “dauntless journalist who let nothing stand in the way of her search for the truth, and her determination to inform the public, in her native Chile during the military dictatorship.”
Ms González Mujica echoed the Director-General’s denunciation of violence against journalists, emphasizing problems in Latin America, her region. “While the drunkenness of democracy has continued dominating the official discourse, fear and even death have returned to some countries – with new weapons and methods – poisoning our streets. Journalists have been the first victims; they face the constant threat of organized crime, which through terror, seeks to conceal its links with police, the military, parliamentarians, business people, ministers, mayors, judges and also with others who call themselves journalists.”