18.01.2011 -

State of press freedom the theme of UNESCO symposium and conference

The status of press freedom worldwide, freedom of expression on the internet and the safety of journalists are the focus of an international symposium to be held on 26 January at UNESCO in Paris (Room II). The following day, 27 January, a conference on "Journalism ethics and self-regulation in Europe: New media, old dilemmas" will also highlight media issues, notably the challenges specific to emerging democracies and those posed by the internet and new technologies (Room IV).

The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, will open the 26 January symposium, organized with the support of the Swedish National Commission for UNESCO. Frank La Rue, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, will give the keynote address. Sweden's Minister for European Union Affairs, Birgitta Ohlsson, will also speak at the opening.


Chilean journalist Mónica González Mujica, laureate of the 2010 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, will be among speakers at the symposium, which will be moderated by Helge Rønning, professor of media studies at the University of Oslo (Norway). Some 300 participants are expected to attend, including government officials, policy-makers, representatives of non-governmental organizations working for press freedom and media professionals.


The first session will explore the status of press freedom worldwide. Panel members include Jean-François Julliard, Secretary General of the NGO Reporters without Borders (France); Gayathry Venkiteswaran, Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Press Alliance (SEAPA), based in Thailand; and Omar Faruk Osman, President of the Federation of African Journalists and Secretary-General of the National Union of Somali Journalists.


Freedom of expression on the internet will be the topic of the second session. Guy Berger, head of the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University (South Africa) from 1994 to 2010; Gordana Vilović, Senior Lecturer at Zagreb University's Faculty of Political Science (Croatia), William Dutton, Director of the Oxford Internet Institute (United Kingdom); and Robert O. Boorstin, Director of Public Policy at Google (United States) will be panel members.


The final session will examine press freedom and the safety of journalists. Panelists will include Rodney Pinder, Director of the International News Safety Institute based in the United Kingdom; Nancy Roc, a journalist working as an international correspondent in Haiti; and Elisabeth Witchel, Impunity Campaign Consultant for the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists. According to Reporters Without Borders, 57 journalists were killed because of their professional activities in 2010, while another 171 remain imprisoned.


On 27 January, UNESCO's Director-General will open the conference on "Journalism ethics and self-regulation in Europe: New media, old dilemmas". Jan Kleijssen, Director of Standard Setting in the Directorate General of Human Rights and Legal Affairs of the Council of Europe, and William Horsley, Media Freedom Representative, Association of European Journalists, will also speak.


Are media responsible for the comments that appear on their websites? What is the appropriate response to hate messages published on internet? Media accountability in the era of digital technologies is the main topic of the conference's first session, with the participation notably of Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media and Nikos Konstandaras, Managing Editor of the newspaper Kathimerini (Greece).


Internet, privacy, security and professional standards will be discussed at the second session. Participants include William Gore, Public Affairs Director, Press Complaints Commission (UK).


The third and fourth sessions will cover "The Self-Regulation Experience", with Ljiljana Zurovac, Executive Director, Press Council (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and Jeffrey Dvorkin, journalism professor at the University of Toronto and Executive Director of the Organization of News Ombudsmen (ONO); and "Media Accountability in Emerging European Democracies" with Remzi Lani, Director, Albanian Media Institute; Ognian Zlatev, Managing Director, Media Development Center, Bulgaria; and Biljana Tatomir, Deputy Director, Media Program, Open Society Foundation (UK).


About 150 media professionals, academics, press council members, news ombudsmen and representatives of international organizations are expected to attend. The meeting will mark the conclusion of the project "Alignment to International Standards in the Media Sector of South East-European Countries", funded by the European Commission and implemented by UNESCO with the collaboration of the South-East European Network for Professionalization of Media (SEENPM), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Alliance of Independent Press Councils of Europe (AIPCE).

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