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Every year, 3 May is a date which celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom, to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession. 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.
Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the celebration of the UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day with the main event, being a conference jointly organised by UNESCO and the Government of the Republic of Ghana.
This year’s global theme is ‘Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law’, and covered issues of media and the transparency of the political process, the independence and media literacy of the judicial system, and the accountability of state institutions towards the public.
The Day also served to examine contemporary challenges of ensuring press freedom online.
For World Press Freedom Day, independent news organisations have come together to urge everyone to look beyond their usual platforms and seek out news that offers different perspectives, arguing that “a better informed public leads to a better world.”
In the European Parliament, President, Antonio Tajani received a memento commemorating Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was murdered in a car bomb last October, and her struggle for truth from Maltese Artist Kevin Scerri, in the presence of the mother and father of the murdered journalist. A country can call itself democratic only if journalists and media can work in a free and independent environment, acting as guardians for the respect of the rule of law, Tajani said at the ceremony.
The World Press Freedom Day serves as an occasion to inform citizens of violations of press freedom – 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.
It is a date to encourage and develop initiatives in favour of press freedom, and to assess the state of press freedom worldwide.
3 May acts 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. Just as 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.