SPARE NO EFFORT IN BRINGING ATTACKERS OF JOURNALISTS TO BOOK, SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS IN MESSAGE AT COMMEMORATION OF WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY
SPARE NO EFFORT IN BRINGING ATTACKERS OF JOURNALISTS TO BOOK, SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS IN MESSAGE AT COMMEMORATION OF WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
World Press Freedom Day
spare no effort in bringing attackers of journalists to book, Secretary-General
says in message at commemoration of world press freedom day
General Assembly President, Others Pay Tribute to Journalists Killed on Duty
No effort should be spared in bringing to justice the perpetrators of attacks on journalists, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said this morning during the Headquarters observance of this year’s World Press Freedom Day.
In a message delivered on his behalf of by Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Mr. Ban described attacks on freedom of the press as attacks against international law, humanity and freedom itself, saying they were against everything the United Nations stood for. “I am, therefore, all the more alarmed at the way journalists are increasingly being targeted around the world, and dismayed when such crimes are not thoroughly investigated and prosecuted.”
Paying tribute to all those journalists working in difficult and dangerous conditions to provide the world with free, unbiased information, he called on everyone to work for their freedom and safety everywhere. Access to information empowered everyone to transform their lives and communities. Just as water was essential for life to grow, knowledge sustained the capacity to imagine and change. When information flowed freely, people were equipped with tools to take control of their lives, but when that flow was hindered ‑- whether for political or technological reasons -- the capacity to function was stunted.
General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim, paying tribute to media professionals who had lost their lives in the daily struggle to bring out the news, expressed sadness that World Press Freedom Day was also the occasion on which the international community reminded itself that press freedom still came at a price. Their sacrifice should further strengthen efforts to promote press freedom and protect journalists around the world from political interference and physical threats.
He described this year’s theme, “Access to Information and the Empowerment of the People”, as especially fitting since Governments not only needed partners like civil society, the private sector and the media, they must ultimately draw also on the support of empowered individuals, consumers and concerned global citizens. For that reason, there was a need for institutional reforms that would place the individual rather than States at the heart of such efforts and to facilitate equal access to rights and opportunities for each and every individual.
Helene-Marie Gosselin, Director of the New York Office of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), delivered a message on behalf of Director-General Koichiro Matsuura, describing freedom of expression as a fundamental human right recognized in article 19 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, whose sixtieth anniversary was being celebrated this year.
Alongside the dangers of conflict areas and war zones, journalists often faced threats, intimidation and actual violence as a direct result of their work, she noted. That was unconscionable, not only because such actions violated the human rights of individuals, but also because they impeded the free flow of accurate and reliable information underpinning good governance and democracy. In celebrating World Press Freedom Day 2008, it was worth remembering the courage of those journalists who had put themselves at risk in order to provide the public with accurate and independent information.
Andreas Baum ( Switzerland), Chairman of the Committee on Information, noted that, despite growing calls for openness and transparency, there were many areas of the public domain where opacity reigned and information relevant to the public was held back in “citadels of silence”. Markets could not work, democracies could not flourish and individuals could not live up to their full potential without freedom to exchange information. The right of professional journalists to do their job must be respected. Attacks on the media had surged in recent years. In 2006 and 2007, 121 journalists had been killed, but convictions had been secured in only 6.7 per cent of those murders.
He said the digital divide separated those who benefited from modern information technology from those who were excluded. There was need to turn into deeds the words of the 2003 Declaration of Principles, adopted in Geneva at the end of the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, which committed Member States to turning the digital divide into a digital opportunity for all, particularly those at risk of being left behind and becoming further marginalized.
Tuyet Nguyen, President of United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA), said journalists covering the Organization were not happy as it had become harder to gather significant information and write meaningful stories about the world body. Journalists could not convey the news to readers worldwide unless they had access to information. Last week, an UNCA member trying to cover an open meeting of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country had been told to leave because the discussion concerned “sensitive matters”. Correspondents covering the United Nations needed direct access to sources of information in order to write their stories.
Under-Secretary-General Akasaka, presiding over an interactive panel discussion, introduced the panellists: Richard N. Winfield, chairman of the World Press Freedom Committee; Norberto Moretti, Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Brazil to the United Nations; Fernando Rodrigues, a Brazilian investigative journalist and Neiman Fellow at Harvard University; and Larry Rohter, a journalist with the New York Times.
Chief Almir Naraymoga Surui, head of a group monitoring illegal logging in the Amazon rainforest, addressed the observance via videotaped message.
Participants discussed the impact of new technology on access to information in Brazil, and examined the role of information in empowering the Brazilian people, with particular emphasis on indigenous communities. Several participants noted that the Brazilian Government’s programme to bridge the digital divide was bearing dividends. No corner of the country currently lacked access to the Internet and it had also made huge progress in terms of freedom of information.
The Department of Public Information (DPI) this morning held the observance of World Press Freedom Day, which is customarily held during the annual session of the Committee on Information. The event included a panel discussion on “Access to Information and the Empowerment of People” -- part of the weekly DPI/NGO briefings programme.
SRGJAN KERIM, President of the General Assembly, said World Press Freedom Day was celebrated every year to remind the international community of the crucial part that freedom of the press and freedom of expression had played in history and their significance as basic rights enshrined in the 60-year-old Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Sadly, it was also on that Day that the international community reminded itself of the fact that press freedom still came at a price, he said, paying tribute to all the media professionals who had lost their lives in the daily struggle to bring out the news. Their sacrifice should further strengthen efforts to promote press freedom and protect journalists around the world from political interference and physical threats.
This year’s theme, “Access to Information and the Empowerment of the People”, was especially fitting, he said. As the international community struggled to deal with key global challenges, such as climate change, achieving the Millennium Development Goals and financing for development, or tried to address immediate emergencies such as the global food and credit crises, Governments could not do it alone. Member States not only needed partners such as civil society, the private sector and the media , ultimately they also drew on the support of empowered individuals, consumers and concerned global citizens.
The solutions to the challenges of today were about the sustained well-being of all on the planet, he said, adding that it was for that reason that, as General Assembly President, he had been arguing for institutional reforms that would place the individual rather than States at the heart of such efforts and to facilitate equal access to rights and opportunities for each and every individual. Besides rights and opportunities, it was access to information that truly empowered the individual to become more active and responsible. In that, free press was a crucial ally. The media contributed to the process of democratization, to the strengthening of the rule of law and ultimately to institution-building by asking the right, and often difficult, questions, providing access to information and representing all views impartially.
KIYO AKASAKA, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, then delivered a statement on behalf of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, saying that from the education of the youngest members of society to the full public engagement of citizens with their political leadership, access to information empowered everyone to transform their lives and communities. Just as water was essential for life to grow, knowledge sustained the capacity to imagine and change. When information flowed freely, people were equipped with tools to take control of their lives. When the flow of information was hindered ‑- whether for political or technological reasons -- the capacity to function was stunted.
He went on to say that 60 years ago, the drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had declared in article 19 that the right of everyone to freedom of opinion and expression “includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. As the rapid pace of globalization strengthened the development of a free, pluralistic, independent and professional media, the significance of that right had never been more evident. Technological advances had promoted media and information literacy as a right for all to access equally. “A free, secure and independent media is one of the foundations of peace and democracy.”
Describing attacks on freedom of press as attacks against international law, humanity and freedom itself, he said they were against everything the United Nations stood for. “I am, therefore, all the more alarmed at the way journalists are increasingly being targeted around the world, and dismayed when such crimes are not thoroughly investigated and prosecuted.”
He continued: “On this World Press Freedom Day, and in this year when we mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I call on all societies to spare no effort in bringing to justice the perpetrators of attacks on journalists. I pay tribute to all who work in difficult and dangerous conditions to provide us with free, unbiased information. And I call on every one of us to work for the freedom -- and the safety -- of the press everywhere.”
ANDREAS BAUM ( Switzerland), Chairman of the Committee on Information, referring to article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted 60 years ago, said the document was the fundamental pillar of the United Nations system and one of the truly transforming turning points in human history. It gave hope to millions of people. The freedoms mentioned in article 19 -- the freedom to make up one’s own mind, and speak one’s own mind; the freedom to seek, publish and exchange information -- were fundamental human rights. Only when those freedoms were exercised did the rights truly exist. The right to think and speak freely was to no avail if ideas could not circulate and speeches remained unheard. Today’s discussion on access to information and the empowerment of people was, therefore, timely and pertinent.
Markets could not work, democracies could not flourish and individuals could not live up to their full potential without freedom to exchange information, he said, cautioning, however, that there was no equality in access to information. “Despite growing calls for openness and transparency, there are many areas of the public domain where opacity reigns and information relevant to the public is held back in citadels of silence.” The digital divide separated those who benefited from modern information technology from those who were excluded. The 2003 Declaration of Principles, adopted in Geneva at the end of the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, stated that Member States were fully committed to turning the digital divide into a digital opportunity for all, particularly those at risk of being left behind and becoming further marginalized. Everyone was called upon to turn those words into deeds.
“Above all, the right of professional journalists to do their job, to get the news out and to tell their story has to be respected,” he emphasized. Unfortunately, however, respect for that fundamental right was diminishing. According to UNESCO, attacks on the media had surged in recent years and often remained unpunished. In 2006 and 2007 alone, 121 journalists had been killed and only 6.7 per cent of those murders had led to convictions. Those killings had not occurred due to cultural or linguistic differences or because the murderers or their victims had been on the wrong side of the digital divide. Rather, they had occurred because someone had deemed it more expedient to shoot the messenger, rather than be bothered by an inconvenient truth.
He went on to say that, while no one liked to hear bad news, and everyone had a “slight tendency” to want to shoot the messenger, professional journalists and the media performed an indispensable task. Freedom of expression included the right to be wrong, but that did not amount to the right to do wrong. “Freedom of information should not be confused with the licence to offend or to appeal to the basest instincts of human nature.” The right to freedom of expression may be subject to certain restrictions, in line with international human rights law, but Governments individually had the responsibility to protect that freedom.
HELENE-MARIE GOSSELIN, Director of the New York Office of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), delivered a message on behalf of the agency’s Director-General, saying that freedom of expression was a fundamental human right recognized in article 19 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, whose sixtieth anniversary was being celebrated this year. UNESCO paid tribute to the courage and professionalism of the many journalists and media professionals killed and wounded while carrying out their professional activities by dedicating the Day to the themes of empowerment and access to information.
Alongside the dangers of conflict areas and war zones, journalists often faced threats, intimidation and actual violence as a direct result of their work, she continued. Such threats and actions were unconscionable, not only because they violated the human rights of individuals, but also because they impeded the free flow of accurate and reliable information which underpinned good governance and democracy. Too often such crimes were not adequately punished. Press freedom and access to information fed into the wider development objective of empowering people by giving them the information that could help them gain control over their lives.
In celebrating World Press Freedom Day 2008, it was necessary to remember the courage of those journalists who had put themselves at risk in order to provide the public with accurate and independent information, she continued. It was also worth remembering that press freedom and freedom of information were the founding principles for good governance, development and peace, and that, while new technology could provide enormous information benefits, they must be underpinned by measures to empower people to make use of it: quality education for all, universal access to information and knowledge, and respect for linguistic diversity. A commitment to removing all obstacles to press freedom, improving the conditions for independent and professional journalism, and empowering citizens to engage in public debate was essential.
TUYET NGUYEN, President of the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA), said that any failure by the media and its representative to speak during occasions like the current one would be construed as a sign of contentment and business as usual. Journalists now covering the United Nations were not happy. It had become harder to gather significant information on the United Nations and write meaningful stories. These days, many journalists had been told to cover the United States primary elections or stories in New York City. Press freedom meant having access to sources of information. When people could enrich themselves with information and knowledge, they could make decisions to improve their lives. But if deprived of that information, they were subject to abusive policies by the authorities holding the information. Journalists could not do their work of conveying the news to readers worldwide unless they had access to information.
Information technology had opened the door of knowledge to billions of people, he said, but cautioned: “What we cannot celebrate is when journalists are shut out of the sources of information as it happened in this Organization.” Last week, an UNCA member trying to cover an open meeting of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country had been told to leave the room because the discussion concerned “sensitive matters”. However, it was an open meeting to hear complaints from several Permanent Missions, including that of Cuba, whose delegate had said his country’s diplomats had been denied visas to attend conferences in New York. Such complaints had been heard almost annually at the United Nations. Had that issue become more sensitive or was it an attempt to deprive a journalist of his right to cover a story on something the Committee wished to keep secret, even though United Nations reform called for more transparency?
Correspondents covering the United Nations needed direct access to sources of information in order to write their stories, he said, stressing that they could not rely only on United Nations press releases or those of other organizations. They needed information “from the horse’s mouth”, but Governments did not always make good on their promises of press freedom and access to information. Last month, UNCA’s sister organization in Geneva had adopted a resolution calling on the United Nations to allow journalists from Taiwan accreditation to cover meetings of the World Health Organization (WHO) this month, but they had been denied access to Headquarters in Geneva and New York because the United Nations did not recognize their Taiwanese passports. UNCA had asked on several occasions in past years that journalists from Taiwan be allowed to cover United Nations activities.
Both the United States and Switzerland -- host countries of United Nations Headquarters -- recognized Taiwanese passports, he said, adding that the Overseas Press Club of America had written to the Secretary-General urging him to drop the ban on the Taiwanese journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists had made a similar request last year. Neither the United Nations nor any of its resolutions had ever said that only certain passports allowed one access to information, and UNCA called on Member States and the Department of Public Information to consider allowing bona fide journalists, regardless of nationality, to carry out their work of reporting on United Nations activities. That was access to information and empowerment of the people. Getting information from the website was well and good, but getting it directly from the source was even better.
Mr. AKASAKA opened the panel discussion, under the theme “Access to Information and the Empowerment of the People”, by introducing the panellists: Richard N. Winfield, Chairman of the World Press Freedom Committee; Norberto Moretti, Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Brazil to the United Nations; Fernando Rodrigues, a Brazilian investigative journalist and currently a Neiman Fellow at Harvard University; and Larry Rohter, a New York Times journalist.
He noted that, since the arrival of the Internet and the boom in new information technology, information had been shared in unprecedented ways and degrees, in countries large and small, developed and developing. It was to be hoped that the panel would discuss the global state of access to information, as well as how new information technology allowed the empowerment of people to hear different views and perspectives.
Expressing delight that the panel would hear examples of how the issue before the panel had come together in Brazil, he said he had served previously in São Paolo and had been struck by the vibrancy and energy of the media there. He had also been impressed by the access to and use of information by the media and civil society to raise issues and advance debates across a broad spectrum of issues.
ALMIR NARAYMOGA SURUI, head of a group monitoring illegal logging in the Amazon rainforest, then said in a videotaped statement that, through the Internet, his group could inform and let people know what was happening in the forest. Technological advances should go hand in hand with traditional knowledge, which should be treated with respect.
Images from Google could create awareness among many people, letting them know how the Amazon and indigenous land was being destroyed, adding that those wishing to defend that land had been threatened, he said. Google could become a messenger for the people because it could carry the message on their behalf to non-governmental organizations, which could try to mobilize Governments. The Brazilian Government could be proud of its environmental laws and the only thing missing was implementation.
He said his group sought to create a management programme involving reforestation. It wished to discuss that programme with the Government in order to define its implementation. The group had already planted 80,000 trees in deforested areas, half of which were fruit-bearing so that within two to three years, people could begin to harvest them for food. That produce would be offered to local and municipal authorities, which, in turn, would help create jobs.
Mr. WINFIELD referred to the importance of Governments in fostering and encouraging the free flow of information and the resulting consequences when they systematically blocked that flow. In 2002 a Government had hastily imposed a ban on journalists trying to report the outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), an action that had resulted in a rising death toll. Months later, citizens, the international community and the World Health Organization (WHO) had remained in the dark regarding the scope and spread of the disease. The domestic press had been permitted to report only that the appearance of an unknown virus was a mere rumour and there was no epidemic. SARS had reached epidemic proportions, migrating to neighbouring countries, and only then had the Government concerned abandoned censorship, denial and underreporting.
Regarding the United States Government’s secrecy concerning Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and the torture of detainees, he said those abusive and shameful violations of international law and human rights had ultimately been investigated and exposed by the United States press, protected by the First Amendment. The Associated Press had filed several requests with the United States Department of Defense under the Freedom of Information Act, following up with three lawsuits. A federal judge had ordered the Defense Department to provide the Associated Press with the names and details of the prisoners, as well as transcripts of the hearings by military tribunals to determine the combatant status of the prisoners, and information about prisoners’ allegations of abuse. The three successful lawsuits suggested that a combination of three elements could work to pry information out of an administration obsessed with secrecy: a decently worded Freedom of Information Act statute; an independent judiciary committed to the rule of law; and a free, independent and fearless press.
More than 60 Member States, less than one third of the United Nations membership, had enshrined basic freedom of information laws or statute books, he noted. There were two major regional human rights courts, with supranational jurisdiction and, until recently, there had been only slow progress in convincing them that Member States were obligated to give their citizens information. For example, less than two years ago the Inter-American Court of Human Rights had issued a landmark judgement requiring the Chilean Government to disclose plans for deforestation. Soon afterwards the Government had enacted its first Freedom of Information law -- a decision that had caused a ripple effect throughout the Americas. Political will was indispensable in securing broad acceptance of treaties and laws guaranteeing access to information, and to understanding that secrecy in Government was the incubator of corruption. “Sunshine is the best disinfectant,” he said, quoting the late United States Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis.
Mr. MORETTI then presented some Government initiatives that used the Internet and other new technologies to empower individuals and civil society groups. They reflected the basic concept that transparency was the cornerstone of public accountability and a modern participatory democracy. Fiscal empowerment -- society’s ability to act upon information on the expenditure of taxpayers’ money ‑- allowed people to demand services, oversee public spending, lobby for budgetary allocations and fight corruption. Since 2004, Brazil’s “Portaltransparencia” (transparency portal) provided detailed, easily readable information on how public funds were spent, including how much and for what purpose the Federal Government transferred money to a specific public school, city or state police force, non-governmental organization or media group. It was a window into the Government’s bank account. The site also allowed public feedback, whereby anyone could anonymously report alleged cases of improper use of public funds.
The Internet could also be used for electoral empowerment, he said, citing electronic voting. All elections held in Brazil were computerized and the results of each electoral section were sent through secure Internet connections to counting centres as soon as ballots closed. That expedited vote counting and made the electoral process accurate and certain. The website of the Superior Electoral Court enabled citizens to obtain critical information on the financing of each candidate’s campaign, such as the names and donations of all individual and corporate donors, providers of goods and services to the campaigns and a list of candidates or campaign committees that had failed to disclose the required information. Information on candidates’ personal assets was also available. The websites of the Chamber of Deputies and the Federal Senate also disclosed the performance costs of congressional representatives.
While such Internet initiatives could empower people in many ways, it was important to consider their true effectiveness in a country lacking universal access to Internet services, he stressed. The Brazilian Government was trying to enhance digital inclusion by establishing public infrastructure for Internet access. For example, “Casa Brasil” was a multifunctional computer facility located in 74 poorer communities. Another project provided Internet connection via satellite to schools, isolated communities and non-governmental organizations. The Government was also providing tax rebates and subsidized financing to help individuals buy inexpensive personal computers and grade schools to provide laptops for teachers and students.
An important element of empowering people through access to information was press freedom, he continued, noting that Brazil’s news media enjoyed ample freedom and protection under several solid articles of the Constitution. Recently, the Supreme Court had suspended the effects of several dispositions of the 1967 Press Law enacted under military rule and seen by many as partially inconsistent with the current democratic Government. Moreover, several new bills were before Congress, including one supported by the National Association of Newspapers and the National Federation of Journalists. Last May, the President had signed the Chapultepec Declaration of the Inter-American Press Association and Brazil had also adopted a fully fledged national policy for the protection of human rights defenders under which journalists could be eligible for protection.
Mr. RODRIGUES said that, although 42.6 million of his countrymen and women were connected to the Internet, and although the rate of Internet penetration had skyrocketed in the last year, only 22.4 per cent of the people had some type of connection. That showed the depth of the digital divide in Brazil and South America. The Latin America and Caribbean region had only 20 per cent Internet penetration and South America had only an estimated 7 per cent of the total world population that was connected.
He said his publication had started to build up a database of information about all Brazilian politicians in 2000, with the aim of using that information on all the stories the newspaper would publish. The database had subsequently been put online. The idea was based on national legislation requiring all politicians running for office to disclose all their previous engagements and list their personal assets so the voters could compare their assets against what they had listed previously. The newspaper had found that despite that requirement, the electoral courts had been unwilling to release the information to the public or to the press, except in the case of those running for high offices like the presidency. The newspaper had covered all 26 states petitioning the state electoral courts for access to the information but it had taken three years to conclude the first phase of the list.
The electoral court had subsequently put the information online, he said, adding that today, more than 25,000 politicians were listed in the newspaper’s database, which was on a free search website entirely open to the public. While Brazil was among the countries enjoying some freedom of information, it had no comprehensive national law covering that and associated freedoms. Brazil still had a long way to go before achieving more equitable access to information whereas it was entrenched in some countries. Freedom of information could be at risk in Brazil if the political climate were to change.
Mr. ROHTER said Brazil had been very adept in taking advantage of new communication technology and Brazilians surfed the Web more than people in most other societies. That situation had changed things for journalists by eliminating barriers between the reader and the writer. For foreign journalists in Brazil, it meant their dispatches were read much more often by local Brazilians who were now able to access those reports over the Internet. Evidence of access was the huge amount of feedback and tips that journalists received from Brazilians in response to their reporting. Similar feedback also went to the Brazilian media.
The Government’s programme to bridge the digital divide was bearing dividends and no part of Brazil currently lacked Internet access, he said. Although that development had helped the ranchers involved in the deforestation of the Amazon, it had also given activists fighting deforestation a way to get their messages out. Many indigenous leaders had seized on the opportunity provided by the Internet to reach out and communicate across the world. They had established programmes through non-governmental organizations in other countries, such as Germany, so that people there could support the replanting of trees. Through the Internet, they had been able to see the trees replanted on their behalf.
Returning to the question of press freedom in Brazil, he recalled that when he had first gone there in 1972, the country had been ruled by a military dictatorship and some journalists had paid with their lives for trying to practise their profession. Today, almost everything was different and the practice of journalism was unfettered. There had been occasional efforts to silence journalists, but they had not succeeded because Brazil today was a different society.
In the ensuing discussion, participants pointed to the confusion over whether access to information in fact led to public empowerment and confusion over the difference between data, information and wisdom. Some speakers said that in the current media climate, journalists largely replicated each other’s work and engaged in very little discourse over whether the data and information they were given had any deeper meaning.
Mr. ROHTER said data by itself was indeed not sufficient. It required a body of knowledge and context to go with it. The Brazilian database that Mr. Rodrigues had discussed was a good example of how people were learning to manipulate data. Last year, when Brazil’s Senate had been caught in a financial scandal, people had been able to check the data against other sources of information and had found discrepancies between the actual money transactions and public statements on the matter. That was an example of people’s ability to use data in an intelligent, appropriate manner.
Mr. MORETTI added that last year, the Brazil office of the non-governmental organization Transparency International had obtained interesting data on the courts from which it had created easily readable information on the legal history of the country’s politicians. That was a good example of how raw data could be transmitted into information and knowledge.
One participant asked the panellists to comment on the transition from hard news to opinion and op-ed news in the United States press over the last few years, and whether that trend was also occurring in the foreign press.
Mr. WINFIELD said the proliferation of punditry and “punditocracy” was real and not limited to the United States media. But it was also accompanied by the ubiquitous availability of news from newer sources such as the Internet and direct-source satellite.
Another participant asked where detailed financial information on international industrial involvement in Brazil’s rainforest could be found, particularly that of multinational companies, as that information was lacking in the mainstream press.
Mr. RODRIGUES said that, while Brazil was moving in the right direction in terms of freedom of expression and disclosure of information, it was very difficult to change the way things had been done under the previous dictatorship, which was true of many other countries embracing democratic reform. It was increasingly necessary to have international access to public information in order to understand what was going on in a particular country.
Mr. ROHTER said a lot of information about the Amazon was already available. For example, Greenpeace International’s Amazon Campaign monitored wood sales from the Amazon forest. One could track what had been cut and who had purchased it. Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research was also tracking burning in the Amazon during the dry season, which occurred from June through November. Portaltransparencia was also a great resource, but the caveat was that one had to know how and where to look for the information required.
Another speaker said money had remained a source of corruption in many countries. While poor people were trying to feed themselves, many others engaged in corrupt practices, taking away money intended for common use by the people. The United Nations should play a key role in establishing a court to go after such people.
Mr. AKASAKA said in his closing remarks that Brazil had been transformed and the use of technology and freedom of information had helped it achieve that transformation. The United Nations would keep a close eye on the development of technology and access to information and the empowerment of people. It would also continue to work on freedom of expression. The questions addressed by the panel were very pertinent to World Press Freedom Day.
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