Following is the text of the video-message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the occasion of the observance of World Press Freedom Day, in New York today:
I am very pleased to join you on World Press Freedom Day 1999. Press freedom is a cornerstone of human rights. It holds governments responsible for their acts, and serves as a warning to all that impunity is an illusion. It advances knowledge and understanding, within and between countries.
It helps peoples everywhere appreciate what unites us, and not just what divides us. Still, there are some who question the value of freedom of speech to their societies. There are some who argue that it threatens stability and endangers progress. There are even some who consider freedom of speech a foreign imposition, and not the indigenous expression of every people's demand for freedom.
This argument, however, is never made by the people, but by governments; never by the powerless but by the powerful; never by the voiceless, but by those who allow only their own voices to the heard.
Let us put this argument, once and for all, to the only test that matters: Let every people choose freely: Would they want to know more or know less? To be heard or be silenced? To stand-up or kneel down?
Freedom of speech is a right to be fought for, not a blessing to be wished for. But it is more than that: it is the essential vehicle for the exchange of ideas between nations and cultures. And without that exchange and interaction, there can be no true understanding or lasting cooperation.
On this last World Press Freedom Day of the twentieth century, I salute the courage and commitment of journalists everywhere to bring us the truth, so that freedom and cooperation may flourish in every country, for every people, of every creed. * *** *