Gambian editors pioneered idea of World Press Freedom Day


Speaking at a symposium celebrating World Press Freedom Day on Saturday at Tango, Mr Conateh said the two represented The Gambia at a UN conference on freedom of the press in Windhoek, Namibia, in 1993 where they proposed the idea.

“The most important point to note is that the late Deyda Hydara and Kenneth Best of the Observer were the representatives of The Gambia Press Union at the conference. They initiated the adoption of this world press freedom day during the conference sessions, and it was adopted by the seminar.  Since then, it became adopted by the world body, Unesco itself, and it is now recognised throughout the world as World Press Freedom Day,” he revealed.

Mr Conateh who spoke at the symposium on behalf of Gambian publishers said: “These two were publishers, and as publishers, one can only associate the noble work they have achieved by that proposal of theirs [at the conference].”


World Press Freedom Day was 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. 

In a statement read by Secretary General of Gambia National Commission for Unesco, Yahya Al-Mattarr Jobe, the day is meant to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, 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.

Mr Jobe admitted that the origin of World Press Freedom Day arose from a declaration signed by a group of journalists gathered at a Unesco seminar on “promoting an independent and pluralistic African media” held in Namibia in 1993.  Subsequently he added, “pain-staking lobbying led to the proclamation of 3 May as International Day of Press Freedom by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993.”

Reading a joint statement from Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary general, and Ms Irina Bokova, director-general of Unesco, Mr Jobe noted: “This year, the international community has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to prepare a long-term agenda for sustainable development to succeed the Millennium Development Goals when they end in 2015. 

“Successfully implementing that agenda will require that all populations enjoy the fundamental rights of freedom of opinion and expression… These rights are essential to democracy, transparency, accountability and the rule of law. They are vital for human dignity, social progress and inclusive development.” 


By Sanna Camara