Doha Centre for Media Freedom is sending a delegation to participate in UNESCO’s annual World Press Freedom Day event tomorrow, aimed at reminding all stakeholders of the importance of respecting media freedom and protecting journalists.
May 3 was adopted as World Press Freedom Day by the UN General Assembly in 1993, and the occasion serves to remind citizens of the violations against press freedom and journalists around the world, and the impact that these violations have on society as a whole.
This year’s event, hosted in Finland under the title “Access to information and fundamental freedoms: This is your right,” will focus on the safety of journalists and access to information in three main areas: the right to media freedom as a fundamental human right; protecting media from censorship and excessive surveillance, and ensuring the safety of journalists working online and offline.
As UNESCO explains, the day is an occasion to remind people that “in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalist, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered.”
“It serves as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom and is also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics.”
World Press Freedom Day is also an occasion to remember and honour journalists who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for their work.
Ahead of the forum, UNESCO noted: “Press freedom and access to information are essential to democracy and to sustainable development. Journalism helps make this so. Sometimes referred to as a “watchdog” of political and societal institutions, journalism is also much more: it demonstrates freedom of expression for society at large, it puts new questions on the development agenda, and it empowers citizens with information.”
“It provides a context in which the diversity of cultural expressions can flourish. For all these reasons, strengthening the conditions for journalism is key to developing a culture of openness, access to information and fundamental freedoms.”
Highlighting the work of inspirational journalists, the annual Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, recognising the exceptional work of journalists or media organisations involved in defending media freedom or furthering the cause of journalism around the world, will be presented at the event.
There is added interest in this year’s meeting for Qatar, as former Minister of Culture, Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari has been nominated to replace the outgoing Irina Bokova and assume the role of director-general of UNESCO.
Al-Kuwari, currently a cultural advisor to the Emir, has recently published a book “A Part of Me…Vision,” which covers his educational background and his life of learning from various cultures around the world, and sets out why he would make a good candidate for such an important international role.