The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) observed Word Press Freedom Day on May 3 with great fervour this year.
For the first time in 20 years, the US hosted the celebrations in Washington DC.
The theme of the three-day event held from May 1 to 3 was 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers with social networking sites such as Facebook, and Twitter initiating and motivating public opinion on Press Freedom and the uprising in the Arab world in favour of democracy.
As well as the UNESCO, World Press Freedom Day this year had the benefit of sponsorship and support by the US Department of State, American Press Institute, International Center for Journalists and Open Society Foundation.
The UN General Assembly declared May 3 as the World Press Freedom Day in 1993, following a Recommendation adopted by the UNESCO General Conference at its annual session in 1991.
The UN observed the 20th Anniversary of the ‘Windhoek Declaration’ at its New York Headquarters on May 3.
The UN and UNESCO adopted the ‘Windhoek Declaration’ at a Seminar held in Windhoek in Namibia on May 3, 1991. The Seminar had primarily focused on promoting an independent and pluralistic African Press.
The participants declared that establishment, maintenance and fostering of an independent, pluralistic and free press was essential to the development and maintenance of democracy in a nation and for economic development.
“By an independent press, we mean a press independent from governmental, political or economic control or from control of materials and infrastructure essential for the production and dissemination of newspapers, magazines and periodicals.
“By a pluralistic press, we mean the end of monopolies of any kind and the existence of the greatest possible number of news papers, magazines and periodicals reflecting the widest possible range of opinion within the community,” the Declaration said.
US President Barack Obama said several countries continued to muzzle the press and that media persons were among the victims of undemocratic regimes.
“So far this year alone, at least 16 journalists have been killed and more than 145 remain imprisoned around the world, simply for daring to report the truth,” he said, speaking on the eve of the World Press Freedom Day.
He named authoritarian regimes such as Belarus, Burma, Cuba, Eritrea, Libya, North Korea, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan where Freedom of Press, speech and Human Rights were non-existent.
Mr Obama said every country should consider it a duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN on December 10, 1948.
The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers and the World Editors commemorated the day by holding events in the US (Washington DC), Turkey (Istanbul) and Namibia (Windhoek).
Balaji Chandramohan is our Delhi based Correspondent. He is currently working as a volunteer at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.