World Press Freedom Day on May 3
ISLAMABAD- The World Press Freedom Day wi11 be celebrated on May 3 to draw public attention to the importance of free flow of information and to recognize the sacrifice of journalists who have been victims or who continue to struggle for freedom of expression. In dozens of countries around the world journalists are assassinated, physically attacked, imprisoned or harassed simply for practising their profession reporting objectively. Their publications are censured, suspended or closed down because they recount the realities in their countries.
On the recommendation of the economic and social council, the United Nations General Assembly, on Dec 20, 1993, had declared May 3 as World Press Freedom Day. In a joint message the UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan; High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson and Unesco director-general Koichiro Matsuura said: “In every society, freedom of the press is essential to transparency, accountability, good governance and the rifle of law.”
The freedom of the press cannot be suppressed without dire consequences for social cohesion and stability, they said. They have urged “all actors in conflict situations around the world – governments, local authorities and armed forces – to protect the right of all citizens to reliable information and the right of journalists to provide it without fearing for their security, their freedom or their life.”
In times of conflict, the media’s responsibilities for independent and pluralistic reporting are more important than ever. They can help to prevent the worst atrocities. “But when belligerents see freedom of expression as an enemy to their cause and the media as a tool for propaganda, journalists who attempt to report in a non-partisan way face pressure, manipulation, intimidation, or even elimination”, the joint message said.
In the aftermath of war, the establishment of a free and independent press offers a way out of mistrust and fear, into an environment where true dialogue is possible because people can think for themselves and base their opinions on facts, they said. “Wherever their independence or security is threatened – whether in repressive societies, in times of conflict or in post conflict situations – local journalists must be supported and protected in their efforts to maintain a flow of fair and independent information,” the three said in the message.
The international media, too, have an important role to play, in providing non-partisan coverage of conflicts and in calling the world’s attention to humanitarian crises, human rights abuses and other situations where oblivion would be the worst of fates for suffering human beings, they added. “The international community must keep on seeking to remedy severe violations of the press freedom. On behalf of our organizations, and in the interest of knowledge, justice, and peace, we promise to explore every approach that offers hope of enabling the media to carry out their invaluable and often dangerous work,” the message concluded.