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Friday, September 29, 2023
Audrey Azoulay is Director-General of UNESCO
PARIS, May 1 2023 (IPS) - Freedom of the press is the cornerstone of democratic society. Without a debate of ideas, without verified facts, without diversity of perspectives, democracy is a shadow of itself; and World Press Freedom Day was established to remind us of this.
For the international community, it is first and foremost a question of combating the impunity that still surrounds crimes of which journalists are victims, with nearly nine out of ten murders of journalists going unpunished.
This, for instance, is the objective of the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the issue of Impunity, which UNESCO has been leading for ten years. It is also about ensuring that independent media can continue to exist.
With the digital revolution, the information landscape and its modes of production and distribution have been radically disrupted, jeopardizing the viability of independent professional media.
To ensure that information remains a common good in the digital age, our Member States, through the Windhoek +30 Declaration of 2021, have undertaken to support independent journalism, ensure greater transparency of online platforms, and develop media and information literacy.
We will not be able to do this without the actors who now have significant control over access to information: the digital platforms. This is why UNESCO held the “Internet for Trust” conference in February, as an essential step towards the development of principles to regulate digital platforms.
This is a fundamental issue, because it involves both protecting freedom of expression and fighting disinformation and hate speech. Thirty years after the first World Press Freedom Day, we can see how far we have come and how far we still have to go.
So, let this Day be an opportunity to renew our commitment, within international organizations, to defending journalists and, through them, press freedom.
Footnote: As the UN Organization responsible for defending and promoting freedom of expression, media independence and pluralism, UNESCO leads the organization of World Press Freedom Day each year.
This year’s celebration will be particularly special: the international community will mark the 30th anniversary of the proclamation of the Day by the United Nations General Assembly.
It will serve as an occasion to take stock of the global gains for press freedom secured by UNESCO and its partners in the past decades, as well as underline the new risks faced in the digital age.
IPS UN Bureau
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