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World Press Freedom Day 2017: A call for critical minds

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Today is World Press Freedom Day and no, it’s not a public holiday for the Press.  It is a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom. The 2017 theme is, “Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies.”

May 3 was declared WPFD by the United Nations in 1993 after a 1991 UN conference held in Windhoek, Namibia, where African newspaper journalists presented a paper on press freedom principles. The paper is famously called the Windhoek Declaration.  

World Press Freedom Day is to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, evaluate press freedom around the world, defend the media from attacks on their independence, pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in exercise of the profession, inform the citizens of violations of press freedom, encourage and develop initiatives in favour of press freedom worldwide and to serve as a reminder of press ethics.

Every year, UNESCO marks World Press Freedom Day by conferring the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano WPF Prize on a deserving individual, organisation or institution that has achieved much especially in the face of danger. The prize was created in 1997 and is open to UNESCO member states.  The prize, worth US$45000, is named in honour of Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Columbian journalist who was assassinated in front of the offices of his newspaper on 17 December 1986. Cano’s writings had offended Colombia’s powerful drug barons. It has been won once by a Nigerian – Christina Anyanwu, who was imprisoned by Gen. Sani Abacha for reporting on a failed coup d’etat against the government. That was in 1998.

This evening in Bokova, the WPFD 2017 prize will go to Dawit Isaak, the imprisoned Eritrean-born journalist who will be represented by his daughter, Bethelem Isaak, during a ceremony that will be hosted by Joko Widodo, the President of Indonesia.

The United States first celebrated WPFD in 2011. This year, the US consulate in Nigeria, is hosting an event in collaboration with Lagos Television (LTV). In line with the global theme for WPFD 2017, this program will see senior Nigerian journalists and editors including journalism students and faculty discuss the measures for safeguarding press freedom and the sustenance of democratic values, particularly in the digital age.

Funke Egbemode, President, Nigeria Guild of Editors; Dapo Olorunyomi, Publisher of Premium Times, Simon Kolawole, Publisher, TheCable; David Ajikobi, Nigeria Editor at Africa Check; and Tomi Oluyomi-Lords, Media Law and Ethics lecturer at the Nigeria Institute of Journalism (NIJ) are some of the speakers expected. Also, an inter-collegiate debate competition will be held as part of the programs for this event.

There are about 80 World Press Freedom events going on around the world today. Special contents will also feature across some blogs and Television all over the world. A special selection of Press cartoons has also been curated for showing by UNESCO and Cartooning for Peace, an international organisation founded by former UN Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Prize for Literature winner, Kofi Anan.

You can follow the conversation on social media using #PressFreedom2017, #WorldPressFreedomDay, or #WorldPressDay. A free press is impossible without the co-operation of the government and public. World Press Freedom Day drives home the need for everyone to sharpen their minds to defend the freedoms — free, independent, and pluralistic media — that are essential for justice and peace.



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