On World Press Freedom Day, Secretary-General Says ‘Free Press Safeguards Our Rights and We Must, in Turn, Ensure Theirs’

3 May 2012

On World Press Freedom Day, Secretary-General Says ‘Free Press Safeguards Our Rights and We Must, in Turn, Ensure Theirs’

3 May 2012
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

On World Press Freedom Day, Secretary-General Says ‘Free Press

Safeguards Our Rights and We Must, in Turn, Ensure Theirs’


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks on World Press Freedom Day, in New York, 3 May:

It is a special pleasure to be joined today by the President of Ireland.  A former broadcaster and minister of the arts, he is a firm proponent of the rights we reaffirm on this observance.  He knows, as we all do, the dire threats journalists face as they carry out their vital work.

More than 60 journalists were killed worldwide last year, and many more were injured.  According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 179 journalists were detained in 2011, a 20 per cent rise over the year before — and the highest level since the 1990s.  Countless others face intimidation, harassment and censorship at the hands of Governments, corporations and powerful individuals seeking to preserve their power or hide wrongdoings and misdeeds.  Impunity for those who attack or threaten journalists remains disturbingly prevalent — including for assaults carried out in broad daylight, delivering the most brutal of messages.

Such attacks are outrageous.  I call on all concerned to prevent and prosecute such violence.  Defenders of a free press are safeguarding our rights and we must, in turn, ensure theirs.

Last September, the United Nations held its first-ever inter-agency meeting on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity.  I was pleased to note the enthusiastic participation by many parts of the United Nations family, all eager to do more to protect the rights proclaimed in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The meeting produced a comprehensive Plan of Action, and the United Nations will now intensify our efforts to help Member States strengthen legal frameworks and investigate attacks against journalists.

This year, World Press Freedom Day recognizes the new media voices that are helping to transform our world.  We have all seen, over the past year and a half, across the Middle East and North Africa, the central role played by social media, mobile telephones and satellite television in generating an extraordinary ripple effect:  from a vegetable seller’s simple cry for human dignity, to the fall of autocratic regimes.

Those new voices and new modes of communication have helped millions of people gain, for the first time, the chance at democracy and opportunities that had been denied to them for so long.  As the use of those tools expands, the world is likely to see more historic changes — and other applications that can advance human well-being.

As we mark World Press Freedom Day, let us pledge to do our utmost to ensure that journalists can perform their work — in new and traditional media alike.  Their efforts make an indispensable contribution to building stronger, healthier and more peaceful societies.

Let us now, in honour of the journalists who were killed in the line of duty last year, observe a moment of silence.  Our thoughts are with the families and loved ones of these fine and courageous professionals.  Let us also remember the stories and exposés they were covering when they were lost — and which still need to be pursued.  [Moment of silence is observed].  Thank you.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.