"Turbulent Eras: Generational Perspectives on Freedom of the Press"
Press freedom was a cornerstone of human rights, Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated, as World Press Freedom Day 1999 was observed at Headquarters. He added: freedom of speech was a right to be fought for, not a blessing to be wished for.
The event — a panel discussion on the topic: "Turbulent Eras: Generational Perspectives on Freedom of the Press" — was organized by the Department of Public Information (DPI) in cooperation with The Freedom Forum and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
In introductory remarks, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Kensaku Hogen, recalled that the Day had been observed at the United Nations since 1993, and that this year's observance was being held at the dawn of a new millennium. The panel would discuss freedom of the press as it had been applied in their lives and as the participants saw it in the future.
Keynote speaker Stephen Rosenfeld, Deputy Editorial Page Editor and columnist, The Washington Post, said the cold war was now over and the new story was globalization, interdependence and peace — those preoccupations put the United Nations right in the middle of things. The story was, however, not just about globalization as life and growth but about war and fear, the predatory aspects of the process. Journalists did not see just the debris of wars, they were also the debris, evidenced in colleagues everywhere who had died.
Robert Giles, Senior Vice-President, The Freedom Forum, and Executive Director, Media Studies Center, said while "we would like to think that everyday is World Press Freedom Day", the reality was different. The lists of journalists who had been jailed, beaten and killed was a sobering reminder that news reports depended on the courage of journalists who worked under the threat of violence and intimidation.