Carthage Declaration insists on need to reinforce press freedom and improve safety for journalists
Protecting hard-won gains in press freedom, improving safety for journalists and ending impunity for crimes against them, emerged as the main concerns of participants who attended UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day conference in Tunis, held on 4 and 5 May. Over 700 participants from almost 90 countries took part in the event, which ended today with the adoption of the Carthage Declaration.
The Conference was opened by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova who praised the role played by social media in the social transformation of Tunisia and encouraged decision makers, media professionals and community leaders to maintain momentum for press freedom,
“Tunisia has shown how the desire for freedom, combined with the force of new media has the power to transform society,” the Director-General said. “It’s a profoundly humanist and extremely modern perspective on the realities of contemporary societies.”
The different questions raised by the rise of new media, including legal frameworks, access to information and technology, training, standards, ethics and safety for journalists were discussed at length throughout the conference, by experts from major media outlets, non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations and the private sector.
During the lively final session of the Conference, participants engaged in dynamic debates about the challenges facing the Tunisian media in a time of democratic transition.
In the Carthage Declaration the delegates underscored the “historical juncture” at which World Press Freedom Day was celebrated this year, especially in the Arab region. “It is important to consolidate the culture, law and journalistic practices that are essential to protect hard-won freedoms,” they stated, reflecting concerns expressed throughout the conference on the fragility of these freedoms.
They called on all stakeholders “to create and strengthen the environment for free, editorially independent and pluralistic media, including in countries in transition toward democracy”. They also stressed the importance for media professionals and citizen journalists to adopt an ethical approach to their work, which they said was “a key factor in revealing untruths, promoting human rights, combatting intolerance, exposing corruption and counteracting authoritarianism”.
The need to “transform state and government media into public service media outlets with guarantees for full independence” was also highlighted, along with
the imperative to “guarantee in law the independence of media regulatory bodies and their role in promoting media diversity” and “ensure that appointments to these bodies are transparent and based exclusively on competence.”
On the issue of safety, the Declaration specifically urged governments “to create free and safe environments for journalists, media workers and social media producers to produce journalism through traditional or new media, and to support implementation of the UN Plan of Action on The Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.”
It also called on UNESCO to “continue to combat impunity, particularly by implementing the UN inter-agency Plan of Action on The Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity”, and to “request Member States to report on the status of investigation of cases of violence against media personnel and others contributing to public interest journalism, and ensure the transparency of this reporting.”
The celebrations for World Press Freedom began in Tunis on 3 May with the award ceremony for the UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize to Azerbaijani journalist Eynulla Fatullayev. The award ceremony was hosted by the President of Tunisia, Dr Moncef Marzouki, who pledged that the freedoms won during last year’s revolution would not be violated.
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