The media landscape has changed but the objectives to protect press freedom remain the same, states Irina Bokova
On Sunday, 1 May, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, participated in the Opening Ceremony of the 2011 World Press Freedom Day International Conference, celebrated under the theme “21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers”.
The Conference is taking place in Washington D.C., at the Newseum (1 and 2 May) and the National Press Club on 3 May. It is organized jointly by UNESCO, the US Department of State, the Centre for International Media Assistance at the National Endowment for Democracy, the United Nations Foundation as well as international NGOs and other partners.
Welcoming addresses were made by Bette Bao Lord, Board of Trustees, Newseum; Carl Gershman, President, National Endowment for Democracy, Judith McHale, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, US Department of State; and Stephen King, Investment Partner, Omidyar Network.
In her opening remarks, the Director-General Irina Bokova highlighted the role of UNESCO as a powerful platform for debating the challenges linked to the media revolution.
The media landscape has changed beyond recognition since the adoption, twenty years ago, of the Windhoek Declaration on press freedom. But as the Director-General pointed out, “our objective remains the same: to promote freedom of expression as a foundation for human dignity and the cornerstone of democracy. Freedom of expression means, indeed, the right to inform, whatever the context, however difficult the situation”.
On 30 April, the day before the conference’s inauguration, the Director-General took part in the White House Correspondents Dinner. In his speech, President Obama paid tribute to the many journalists who have been “threatened, arrested, beaten, attacked, and in some cases even killed” in the last months “simply for doing their best to bring us the story, to give people a voice, and to hold leaders accountable” and to the “...daring men and women risk their lives for the simple idea that no one should be silenced, and everyone deserves to know the truth”.