On 25 March, Irina Bokova launched in Stockholm, Sweden, the new UNESCO Report on World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development.
The launch was held at the International Press Centre and featured speeches by Ms Birgitta Ohlsson, Swedish Minister for Democracy and EU-affairs, moderated by Mr Mats Djurberg, Secretary General of the Swedish National Commission for UNESCO. This was followed by a roundtable discussion with Ms Helena Sancho from the Swedish International Development Agency, Jesper Bengtsson from the Swedish think tank Tiden, as well as Ms Ulla Carlosson, Professor and Director of Nordicom.
The UNESCO Director-General started by thanking the Government of Sweden for the strength of its support to UNESCO in promoting and protecting freedom of expression, including media and press freedom, and notably in drafting the World Trends Report.
“We are seeing positive trends for freedom of expression, which are a blessing for creativity, exchange and dialogue,” said Irina Bokova. “At the same time, new threats are rising -- from digital controls, censorship and blocking to physical threats against journalists – these undermine freedom of expression, a human right that is vital for the rule of law, for building inclusive, open knowledge societies.”
The Director-General underlined the importance of the World Trends Report for understanding the scale and nature of changes in freedom of expression and media development – as the basis for sharper public action to raise awareness, to strengthen the safety of journalists and end impunity, to build capacity in countries across the world and to support effective media development.
“At times of uncertainty, we must remain true to the values that we share,” said the Director-General. “Freedom of expression is essential to dignity, dialogue, democracy and sustainable development, and press freedom is flourishing in many ways, but it faces serious challenges,” she continued. “In this context, our message is clear – we must meet these challenges and we must continue pushing forward the frontiers for freedom of expression.”
Ms Birgitta Ohlsson, Swedish Minister for Democracy and EU-affairs spoke of the importance of the safety of journalists and the need to promote freedom of expression in all circumstances, as the basis for the rule of law and stronger democracy. The Minister underlined the deep commitment of the Swedish Government to defending freedom of expression, and the importance of UNESCO's leadership in this respect.
"Freedom of expression is the base for all other rights," declared Minister Ohlsson, highlighting the vital importance of gender equality. In this light, the Minister welcomed the Report and looked forward to taking this further.