Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Remarks at observance of World Press Freedom Day

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Headquarters, 29 April 2010

Thank you, Mr. Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for DPI,
Excellency Dr Mohamad; Acting President of the GA,
Your Excellency Ambassador Monteiro Lima; Chair of COI,
President of UNCA, Mr Pioli;
Ms Alfsen of UNESCO,
Dear Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here for our annual observance of World Press Freedom Day.

Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

But around the world, Governments and those who wield power use many different ways to obstruct it.

They impose high taxes on newsprint, making newspapers so expensive that people cannot afford to buy them.

Independent radio and TV stations are forced off the air if they criticize Government policies.

The censors are active in cyberspace too, preventing people from accessing websites for political reasons, and arresting citizen journalists.

In some parts of the world, journalists are imprisoned for years, on dubious or non-existent charges.

Elsewhere, they risk intimidation and harrassment, and even their lives, simply for doing their jobs.

Simply for exercising their right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas, through any media, and regardless of frontiers.

Last year, UNESCO condemned the killing of 77 journalists.

These were not high-profile war correspondents, killed in the heat of battle.

Most of them worked for small, local publications in peacetime. They were killed for attempting to expose wrongdoing or corruption.

I condemn these murders and insist that the perpetrators are brought to justice.

All Governments have a duty to protect those who work in the media.

This protection must include investigating and prosecuting those who commit crimes against journalists.

Impunity gives the green light to criminals and murderers, and empowers those who have something to hide.

Over the long term, it has a corrosive and corrupting effect on society as a whole.

Ladies and gentlemen, Distinguished members of the media,

Our theme this year is Freedom of Information: the right to know.

The good news is that there is a global trend towards new laws which recognize the universal right to publicly held information.

But these new laws do not always translate into action.

Requests for official information are often refused, or delayed, for years.

At times, poor information management is to blame. But all too often, this happens because of a culture of secrecy and a lack of accountability.

We must work to change attitudes and to raise awareness.

People have a right to information that affects their lives. States have a duty to provide this information. Such transparency is essential to good government.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I welcome today's panel discussion on the right to know in South-East Asia. The countries of this dynamic region have a broad spectrum of standards for press freedom, and a range of serious problems, from impunity to state repression.

Publicising these issues, and advocating for solutions, are important ways of raising awareness and showing solidarity.

The United Nations stands with persecuted journalists and media professionals everywhere.

Today, as every day, I call on Governments, civil society and people around the world to recognize the important work of media, and to stand up for freedom of information.

Thank you very much.