UNESCO celebrates World Radio Day in West Africa: «Freedom of Expression: A Dialogue Between Journalists and Artists»
«Freedom of Expression: A Dialogue Between Journalists and Artists” was chosen as the theme for the radio show broadcast and dedicated to World Radio Day by UNESCO’s Regional Office for West Africa in Dakar in collaboration with WADR (West Africa Democracy Radio). Bringing together in conversation artists and journalists from Senegal, Burkina Faso and Mali, the radio show allowed a platform for them to share their views on media diversity, freedom of expression, artistic freedom and the promotion of local digital cultural content, as promoted in the 2005 Convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions. The show was broadcast on radio stations across 11 West African countries.
Over the last years, the spectacular development of the Information and Communication sectors has also been accompanied by increased attention to the diversity of cultural expressions and media diversity.
The 2005 convention is dedicated towards highlighting the importance of spreading diverse content throughout media and global information networks. Therefore, in implementing this convention, UNESCO together with the support of the Swedish government, concentrates its efforts in activities promoting and reinforcing freedom of expression and media diversity.
These issues, among others, are reflected in the Periodic Reports (QPRs) that State Parties submit every 4 years. Senegal submitted its 1st report in April 2016 while Burkina Faso’s 2nd periodic report submission is planned for April 2017. Both countries benefited from the support of the Swedish government in the framework of the project “Enhancing fundamental freedoms through the promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions”.
Media are stakeholders in this process as guarantors of freedom of expression but also as actors of the convention. In this context, specific training was given to media professionals. The objective was to provide them with a better understanding of the convention and to share knowledge and expertise with the teams responsible for the drafting of QPRs on issues related to media diversity, freedom of expression and diversity of cultural expressions whilst highlighting the central role played by the UNESCO Media Development Indicators in the preparation of the QPR.
Several speakers of the radio show were directly involved in the preparation of the QPR. For instance, Kalidou Kasse spoke about freedom of expression referring to one of his pieces entitled "Peace is better than war […]”. a very large oil painting, also available in tapestry that came in limited edition copies and were distributed to opinion leaders. Alioune Diop, a cultural journalist, also strives through his profession and his voice, to "merge cultures, facilitate melting pot"s enabling "others to come and explain the basics of their culture, the basics of their art.” For him, "freedom of expression leads to the consciousness of people.”
The 2005 convention implements activities to promote and protect freedom of artistic expression as part of the wider system of fundamental rights. Therefore, UNESCO believes this freedom of artistic expression is a foundation of democracy in the same way as freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of information – all part of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These rights are prerequisites for the protection and promotion of all other human rights.
For this reason, within the framework of its mandate to promote "the free flow of ideas by word and image", UNESCO promotes the development of free, diverse, independent and pluralist in print, broadcast, and online. Media development fosters freedom of expression and contributes to the reinforcement of peace, sustainable development, human rights and the fight against poverty.
Sanmalmé Aristide Dabiré, Secretary General of the National Commission for UNESCO in Burkina Faso, further emphasized this during the radio broadcast: "We refer to the very charter of Human Rights. UNESCO has understood that for our young democracies it is very important that freedom of expression be expressed at grass-roots, community, and local levels.” XUMAN (journalist-rapper) also added that in some countries "artists have difficulties to say what they think, there are still barriers that cannot be crossed, we fought for this freedom of expression, to ensure greater respect and dignity so that our rights are respected, for the right to expression, to information.”
The radio, which is constantly adapting to the changes of the 21st century, offers several advantages including accessibility, dynamism, increased choice and diversified content, a platform for cultural expression, and dialogue. On other media platforms, this adaptability to 21st century demands has yet to be witnessed; Cheick Oumar Sissoko, cinematographer and former Minister of Culture of Mali, evokes that "we can say that we do not know the problem of censorship on a movie project, but we must always expect that a filmmaker will be blocked in his initiative: everything depends on the stories we want to tell.” One of these stories, told in his movie "Finzan" in 1988, denounces taboo topics included excision (FGC). Even today, feminist associations continue to use the film as an advocacy tool in their struggle in cities and in rural areas.
The World Radio Day theme for 2017, "Radio is You", encourages the idea that a healthy radio sector should represent the opinions and diversity of its listeners. Listeners should be the central contributors and mechanisms should be established to enable people to participate at all levels, promoting freedom of expression for journalists and artistic freedom.
In the end, it is not only a dialogue between journalists and artists that must continue, but sustained cooperation for the promotion of fundamental rights.
Radio show «Freedom of expression: crossed views between journalists and artists», Accessed via Sound Cloud at: https://soundcloud.com/westafricademocracyradio/mag-lundi-13-fev-liberte-expression-5218
Message from Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of World Radio Day, Accessed at: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002470/247073f.pdf
West Africa Development Radio accessed at: http://www.wadr.org/
Access at World Radio Day website: http://www.diamundialradio.org/
Article on QPR elaboration process in Senegal, Accessed at: http://www.unesco.org/new/fr/dakar/about-this-office/single-view/news/promoting_media_pluralism_and_the_diversity_of_cultural_expr/
Article on QPR elaboration process in Burkina Faso, Accessed at: http://www.unesco.org/new/fr/dakar/about-this-office/single-view/news/les_politiques_pour_la_creativite_a_lhonneur_au_burkina/
2005 Convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions, Accessed at: https://fr.unesco.org/creativity/
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