03.05.2019 - UNESCO Office in New Delhi

UNESCO celebrates World Press Freedom Day in the Maldives

UNESCO New Delhi partnered with Addu Women’s Association, the Maldivian Democracy Network and Facebook to organize the South Asian observance of World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) in Male, the Maldives on 2 May 2019. This regional celebration adhered to the global theme for WPFD 2019, ‘Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation’.

Supported by the Government of the Republic of Maldives, the UN system in the Maldives and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the celebration of WPFD 2019 in Male consisted of a high-level inaugural session, the launch and overview of the South Asia Press Freedom Report 2018–19 (produced by the IFJ with UNESCO’s support), and a regional panel discussion. The event brought together over 100 journalists, media-focused civil society organizations and media experts from the South Asian subregion.

Speaking at the inaugural session, Mr Eric Falt, Director and UNESCO Representative to Bhutan, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka observed that the theme of WPFD 2019 was especially relevant for several countries in South Asia which had been to the polls as recently as 2018, and others like India where elections are currently taking place. Mr Falt stated that UNESCO was hosting the regional observance of WPFD 2019 in the Maldives because of the country’s changed media environment and promised media reforms since President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih assumed the leadership of the Government, following his party’s victory in the parliamentary elections of 2018.

Mr Falt applauded President Solih’s personal commitment to the cause of press freedom, and the Government’s assertion that ‘freedom of expression and freedom of the press will not be revoked at the discretion of the state’ and that ‘freedom of expression and freedom of the press will be open to its furthest reach’.

Dr Arvind Mathur, Acting Resident Coordinator of the UN in the Maldives pointed out that Maldives had ‘already jumped 22 places in the Reporters without Borders’ annual press freedom index’, and congratulated the Maldivian Government for championing the cause of press freedom.

Delivering the Guest Address, H.E. Mohamed Maleeh Jamal outlined the Maldivian Government’s vision for a transformed media landscape, and emphasized: ‘We are here to ensure that the media takes its rightful place in society and becomes a trusted partner for democratic governance. For a democracy to be for everyone, the media should be for everyone.’

The inaugural session was followed by the launch of IFJ’s South Asia Press Freedom Report 2018–19, entitled Truth Versus Misinformation: The Collective Push Back, an overview of which was the provided by IFJ representative Dhaneshi Yatawara.

The event concluded with a regional panel moderated by Ms Mariyam Waheeda, the Honorary Consul of Sweden to the Maldives and Board Member, Public Service Media, which saw the participation of leading journalists, media thinktanks and media training institutes from the Maldives, Bhutan, India and Sri Lanka.

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