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May 3rd;
World Press Freedom Day
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World Press Freedom Day was established by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December, 1993, as an outgrowth of the Seminar on Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press. This Seminar took place in Windhoek, Namibia, in 1991 and led to the adoption of the Windhoek Declaration on Promoting Independent and Pluralistic Media (www.misanet.org/charters/windhoek.html). The Windhoek Declaration called for the establishment, maintenance and fostering of an independent, pluralistic and free press and emphasized the importance of a free press to the development and maintenance of democracy in a nation, and for economic development. World Press Freedom Day is celebrated annually on May 3rd, the date on which the Windhoek Declaration was adopted.

Although World Press Freedom Day has only been celebrated since 1993, it has much deeper roots in the United Nations: Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights states: 'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; 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' (www.unhchr.ch/udhr/lang/eng.htm).

Throughout the world, May 3rd now serves as an occasion to inform the public of violations of the right to freedom of expression and as a reminder that many journalists brave death or jail to bring people their daily news. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which coordinates activities each year on May 3rd, World Press Freedom Day is:

  • a day of action to encourage and develop initiatives in favor of the freedom of the press;
  • a day to assess the state of press freedom worldwide;
  • a day to remind governments to respect their commitments to press freedom;
  • a day to alert the public and to increase awareness of the importance of freedom of the press;
  • a day of reflection to encourage debate among media professionals on the issues of press freedom and professional ethics;
  • a day of support for media which fall victim to any measures which restrain, or seek to abolish, freedom of the press.

Press freedom is considered to be a cornerstone of human rights and a guarantee of other freedoms. It encourages transparency and good governance and it ensures that society enjoys the rule of true justice. Freedom of the press is a bridge of understanding and knowledge. It is essential for the exchange of ideas between nations and cultures which is a condition for true understanding and lasting cooperation.


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