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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Celebrating World Press Freedom Day

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World Press Freedom Day was first proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of UNESCO’s General Conference. Since then, 3 May, the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek is celebrated worldwide as World Press Freedom Day. It is an opportunity to assess the state of press freedom throughout the world, defend the media from attacks on their independence and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

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Remarkably, the role of the media in the development of nations remains critical. There is understanding that an independent, free and pluralistic media are central to good governance in democracies. Free media can ensure transparency, accountability and the rule of law; promote participation in public and political discourse, and contribute to the fight against poverty. 


Unfortunately, the media continues to be at the receiving end of various forms of suppression.  Samanthan Power, United States Ambassador to the United Nations was categorical when she said in February 2014:“Today, here at home and around the world … the struggle is intense to control information and to shape perceptions about what is true. But many governments lack confidence in their own legitimacy or in the credibility of their policies. So what do they do? They try to rig the game.”


Clearly, ensuring freedom for the media around the world is a top priority especially in mature democracies. This is because it takes root in freedom of expression which is also a fundamental human right as stated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This Article campaigns for a free press and for journalists, bloggers, activists and others to be able to express themselves free from suppression.


The most important thing defining press freedom is to convey the truth. Without free press, that is to say, the capacity to properly inform the public and provide citizens debates with necessary insights, democracy is amputated. Though, new technologies are now being used to control freedom of information old violence against journalists remains very high. The challenge has always been to support independent information against information sponsored by powers or interests.


Therefore, as we celebrate World Press Freedom Day, it is useful to look at how international human rights instruments define the scope of press freedom in order to understand what falls within the freedom and what does not. This is because with every right comes responsibility.  


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