Sweden funds UNESCO to continue its work on freedom of expression

The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) has contributed nearly five million USD to UNESCO’s Freedom of Expression Section. With these funds the Organization will implement a global project to enable freedom of expression, freedom of information and press freedom, both online and off-line. The main pillars of the project will be enabling a safe working environment for journalist, improving professional and ethical standards of media professionals, and enhancing society’s media and information literacy.

The new project, “Promoting democracy and freedom of expression”, is both global and regional in scope benefiting people in the Arab region, Africa, South East Asia and Latin America. The project will complement UNESCO’s existing programme in freedom of expression and build upon achievements made through the Sida-funded project “Promoting an Enabling Environment for Freedom of Expression: Global Action with Special Focus on the Arab region.”

The project aims to foster peace, sustainable development and democracy through freedom of expression, at the global and regional levels. It includes four expected results:

  • An enabling environment is fostered for freedom of expression, freedom of information and press freedom, both online and off-line;
  • A free and safe environment for journalists is promoted, particularly in post-conflict countries and countries in transition;
  • Journalists exercise professional and ethical standards that contribute to the media’s role as a platform for democratic discourse, including through election reporting and investigative journalism;
  • Women and youth are empowered through enhanced media and information literacy and improved representation in the media.

Main modalities of action will consist of awareness-raising, coalition building, capacity building, promoting legal and regulatory reform, research, and sharing good practices.

The project will be divided into two components: global normative actions promoting awareness and research on world trends in freedom of expression and media development at the international level, and regional and national interventions aimed at building capacity of relevant stakeholders in places where freedom of expression is challenged and democratic space is limited.

Under the project will be the 2017 version of the report on World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development. The new report will track the evolution of trends since the initial report was published in 2014.  The World Trends Report is a comprehensive document written in partnership with UNESCO and an Advisory Group of 27 international experts, drawing on more than 800 quantitative and qualitative sources.

Sylvie Coudray, Chief of Section for Freedom of Expression, says: “the report provides a systematic analysis of trends on the issue of freedom of expression and media development on a global level and has been launched in 10 countries. There is a need for UNESCO to continue mapping and understanding these important trends on this large scale.”

Safety has remained elusive for many practicing journalists, working in both traditional and new media. The safety of media workers is of great concern to society, since it is a prerequisite for preserving the fundamental right to freedom of expression. The UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, led by UNESCO, has become a global point of reference, but much more remains to be done. Therefore many project activities will be address journalist safety.

The safety of journalists is a crosscutting issue that encompasses freedom of expression both online and off-line. Freedom of expression online directly relates to issues of digital security, surveillance, the right to privacy, and access to information, all of which are pertinent to journalists working in the digital age. As Internet-related issues have moved to the forefront of global agendas and as governance structures, legal frameworks, media and communication practices, and business models are reviewed and adapted to fit new digital developments, UNESCO works to ensure that the right to freedom of expression is protected online as well as off-line. The Organization promotes freedom of expression, privacy, safety and universal norms on the Internet as basic human rights – activities focusing on these issues will be vital to the project.

The project will also contribute to UNESCO’s two Global Priorities: Africa and Gender Equality. Finally, the project is in line with, and will contribute to, the UNESCO Operational Strategy on Youth 2014-2021.