Almost every week, UNESCO marks the death of yet another journalist killed because of his or her professional activity. This tragic tally casts a long shadow on press freedom, which UNESCO celebrates annually on 3 May. The main event for this year’s World Press Freedom Day will be held from 2 to 4 May in Costa Rica, with an international conference on the theme “Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media”.
The event also includes the award ceremony for the UNESCO-Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. The 2013 laureate is Ethiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu, who is serving a five-year jail sentenced in Ethiopia’s Kality prison. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and the President of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla, will preside over the ceremony on 3 May (9a.m. to 10.30 a.m.).
Participants to the conference include representatives from the main organizations defending freedom of expression, editors, journalists, teachers and the United Nations. Three main issues will be discussed: Ensuring the safety of journalists and media workers; combatting impunity of crimes against press freedom; and online safety.
Over the past decade, more than 600 journalists were murdered around the world. In 2012 alone, UNESCO condemned the assassination of 121 media professionals. Ensuring safety of journalists has become a priority and UNESCO has led the preparation of a United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. This Plan foresees that the UN agencies concerned and their partners work together to create a safer working environment for journalists. The conference will assess the implementation of the Plan, which seeks, among other things, to support the development of national laws on safety and freedom of expression, raise public awareness, and train journalists – including online journalists - on safety issues.
Latest research shows that on average no more than one in ten crimes against journalists is brought to trial and punished. The conference will examine the difficulties and obstacles that block investigations into attacks against press freedom, ways of overcoming them and best practices in the struggle against impunity.
Finally, in a media landscape marked by the growing importance of web-based media, the participants will also review the issue of security for online journalists, including citizen journalists, who are not always aware of the risks they take.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day, which was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993. To mark the occasion UNESCO will launch the publication “Pressing for Freedom”, which reviews the revolution in newsrooms over the past two decades, with the rise of the 24 hour news cycle, blogs, social networks, podcasts, webcasts, citizen journalism, and notes that these developments have not yet opened the way to greater respect for basic freedoms.
Numerous other World Press Freedom Day events are also planned in other regions, to serve as a reminder that in many countries, media are regularly faced with censorship, forced closures and suspension of activity, and that journalists continue to be harassed, attacked, arrested and killed.
The conference will be held at the Double Tree Hilton Cariari Hotel, San José, Costa Rica
Plenary sessions will be webcast at http://www.unesco.org/ci
Follow the event on Twitter @unesco: #WPFD, #Pressfreedom
Journalists wishing to cover the event require accreditation.
Lucia Iglesias Kuntz