UNESCO Outstanding Performance in Defending Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Information

On 2 May, in Helsinki, Finland, the UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, received the Chydenius Medal, awarded by the Anders Chydenius Foundation and the Association for Chydenius Institute. This Award ‎recognises the outstanding performance of UNESCO at theinternational level in promoting the principles of openness, cherished by Anders Chydenius, the initiator of the world’s first Freedom of Information Act (1766).

The Award was presented by Mr Gustav Björkstrand (Chairperson of Anders Chydenius Foundation), along with the 250 Delegation, in a ceremony held at the newly-renovated Päivälehti Museum of Finland’s Helsingen Sanomat newspaper.

Issuing the award were the Anders Chydenius Foundation and the Association for Chydenius Institute. The C‎hair of the board of the Foundation, Mr Gustav Björkstrand, explained that UNESCO, led by Ms Bokova, has significantly contributed to free flow of information legislation.

In accepting the award on behalf of the Organization, Irina Bokova cited the words of the humanist and philosopher, Anders Chydenius: “Freedom of writing and printing is one of the strongest bulwarks of a free organization of the State, as without it, the estates would not have sufficient information for the drafting of good laws, and those dispensing justice would not be monitored, nor would the subjects know the requirements of the law, the limits of the rights of government, and their own responsibilities.”

“This says it all,” said the Director-General. “Freedom of information and freedom of expression are human rights that are essential for human dignity, for accountability and transparency, for good governance and the rule of law, for effective decision-making.”

“Human rights and fundamental freedoms are ends in themselves – they are also drivers for the success of all of the goals,” she continued. “They are foundations for the inclusive knowledge societies we need for the century ahead, to take forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

The Director-General singled out the Government of Finland for praise, thanking it for its leadership in defending freedom of expression and enhancing the safety of journalists, notably in support of UNESCO’s action.

“I am deeply grateful to Finland for its champion support to UNESCO, embodied in the project on Promoting Freedom of Expression in Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen. This reflects values with deep roots in this country, in its history and society, led forward also by the Finnish National Commission for UNESCO.”

Previous awardees have been Mr Linus Torvalds (working for open innovations), as well as Mr Miklos Haraszti (working for media freedom).