|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Note to Correspondents
World Press Freedom Day to be observed at United Nations on 3 May;
Panel to discuss Media as Force for Change
The United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) will observe World Press Freedom Day with an event to take place on Wednesday, 3 May, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., in Conference Room 1 at United Nations Headquarters in New York. The observance will be held within the framework of this year’s annual session of the Committee on Information.
The Secretary-General is expected to open the event, which will be part of the weekly DPI/NGO briefing programme. The Chairman of the Committee on Information and the President of the United Nations Correspondents Association will join him for the opening segment. A panel discussion on “The Media as a Force for Change” will then follow. Journalists, media and communication experts will discuss the freedom and responsibilities of the press, the safety and security of journalists, efforts of governmental and corporate control of media, including the Internet and its governance, as well as the media’s capacity to serve as a catalyst for socioeconomic development, particularly the eradication of poverty.
Speakers include Helene Gosselin, Director, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) New York office; Ann Cooper, Executive Director, Committee to Protect Journalists; and Geoffrey Nyarota, Laureate of the 2002 UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize. Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, will moderate the event.
In observance of World Press Freedom Day, an exhibition of the best press photographs of 2005 will open in the Main Gallery of the General Assembly Visitors’ Lobby at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, 3 May. This travelling exhibition of winning images selected at World Press Photos’ worldwide 2006 photojournalism contest in Amsterdam will remain on display through 29 May. (See Note No. 6007.)
Statements at the formal exhibit opening will be made by Frank Majoor, Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the United Nations; Matt McDonough, President of TNT Express, North America; and Gerrit Jan Wolffensperger, Chairman of the Executive Board, World Press Photo.
For further information on World Press Freedom Day 2006, please visit http://www.un.org/events/pressday/2006.
Background -- World Press Freedom Day
The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed World Press Freedom Day in 1993. Since then, it has been celebrated each year on 3 May, the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek. The document calls for free, independent, pluralistic media worldwide characterizing free press as essential to democracy and a fundamental human right.
The Declaration of Windhoek is a statement of free press principles as put together by newspaper journalists in Africa during a UNESCO seminar on “Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press” in Windhoek, Namibia, from 29 April to 3 May 1991.
The meeting happened at the end of the Cold War, triggered by the crisis of the African print media in the 1980s and inspired by the move toward democratization in the region. In addition to practical problems related to the lack of adequate facilities, equipment and training for journalists, the document also enumerates instances of intimidation, imprisonment, and censorship across Africa.
Many of these issues remain at the centre of free press discussions around the world. With the proliferation of information and communication technology, the global digital divide is constantly discussed at various United Nations meetings, most recently, the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).
World Press Freedom Day is celebrated worldwide to remind Governments to “reaffirm as an essential foundation of the information society, and as outlined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; that this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers” (Declaration of Principles, paragraph 4).
Since 1997, UNESCO has marked World Press Freedom Day by awarding the annual UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize to a deserving person, organization or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the defence and/or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, especially when this has been achieved in the face of danger. The prize is awarded on the recommendation of an independent jury of 14 news professionals. Names are submitted by regional and international non-governmental organizations working for press freedom and by UNESCO Member States. The Prize is named in honour of Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian journalist, who was assassinated in front of the offices of his newspaper, El Espectador, in Bogota, in 1986.
This year, the Prize was awarded to Lebanese journalist, May Chidiac.
For more information on UNESCO observance of World Press Freedom Day, visit http://portal.unesco.org/ci/en/ev.php-URL_ID=21468&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html.
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