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WPFD: Stakeholders interrogate framework to protect journalists

By Sunday Aikulola
03 May 2022   |   2:40 am
From yesterday, May 2, to 5, 2022, UNESCO and the Republic of Uruguay would host the yearly World Press Freedom Day Global Conference in a hybrid format in Punta Del Este, Uruguay.


From yesterday, May 2, to 5, 2022, UNESCO and the Republic of Uruguay would host the yearly World Press Freedom Day Global Conference in a hybrid format in Punta Del Este, Uruguay.

Every year, May 3 acts as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom. It is also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics.

Importantly, World Press Freedom Day is a day of support for media, which are targets for the restraint, or abolition, of press freedom. It is also a day of remembrance for those journalists who lost their lives in the pursuit of a story.

World Press Freedom Day also aims to, celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom; evaluate press freedom around the world and defend the media from attacks on their independence

It also serves as a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered. This is a problem all over the world.

Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a Recommendation adopted at the twenty-sixth session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991. This in turn was a response to a call by African journalists who in 1991 produced the landmark Windhoek Declaration on media pluralism and independence.

With the theme, ‘Journalism under Digital Siege’ this year’s event will also address the digital era’s impact on freedom of expression, the safety of journalists, access to information and privacy and will develop concrete recommendations.

UNESCO will also confer the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize to a deserving individual, organisation, or institution in the field. The prize is named after Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian journalist, who was assassinated outside his newspaper, in 1986, having offended powerful drug lords.

In her message, Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, said, “We all must do more to address the risks and seize the opportunities of the digital age. On this World Press Freedom Day, I invite the Member States, technology companies, the media community, as well as the rest of civil society to come together to develop a new digital configuration – one that protects both journalism and journalists.”

In Abuja last week, the U.S. Embassy spokesperson, Jeanne Clark, said, every year, the U.S. Embassy organises activities to commemorate the day.

She stressed that the U.S. attaches great value to the freedom of the press as an integral part of democratic governance.

She said that from the founding fathers recognising and creating the fundamental right to freedom of expression over 200 years ago to President Biden hosting the Summit for Democracy last December, she observed that “Democracy — government of the people, by the people, for the people — can at times be fragile, but also inherently resilient.

According to her, “it’s capable of self-correction and it’s capable of self-improvement.”

To her, democracies are not all the same, insisting that ’we don’t agree on everything but the declared choices of democratic nations will define our shared future for generations to come. – I note this was before anyone ever imagined we would bear witness to the unprovoked attack on Ukraine.

Making reference to Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, she said, “from 2016 – 2021 approximately 85 per cent of the global population saw press freedom declined in their country.

Recently, she disclosed that in the United States, a former vice presidential candidate sued the New York Times for defamation.

Again, she added that a Seattle Times editor called for the adoption of tax credits to save newsroom jobs in the next Congressional budget reconciliation package claiming the Local Journalism Sustainability Act currently has bi-partisan support.

Speaking further, she noted that sustainability is a key issue in Nigeria, particularly for journalists who work tirelessly day in and day out without regular remuneration.

She recalled that U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador Mary Leonard raised this issue at a Democracy Town Hall co-hosted with the Nigerian Guild of Editors in Abuja.

Ahead of the 2023 general elections, she said there is a need to recognise the essential role of the media in Nigeria today.

“We’ve underscored this reality in five of the six regions of the country over the past five months, and combined these discussions with editorial workshops.”

Making reference to UNESCO, she noted, “growing sophistication and detectability of mal- and spyware and their increasing use against journalists and human rights defenders by state and non-state actors, endanger free and independent journalism.”