UNESCO will celebrate World Press Freedom Day in Riga, Latvia, this year with a two-day conference and the awarding of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. The conference in Riga will be held from 2 to 4 May while national celebrations will take place in about 100 countries around the world.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein have issued a joint statement for World Press Freedom Day declaring that: “Quality journalism enables citizens to make informed decisions about their society’s development. It also works to expose injustice, corruption, and the abuse of power. […] Freedom of expression and press freedom are not luxury attributes that can wait until sustainable development has been achieved – it is an enabler for the enjoyment of all human rights and, therefore, vital to good governance and the rule of law.”
UNESCO is focusing on three themes for World Press Freedom Day this year:
- The need for “quality journalism”, reporting that is accurate and independent, remains a constant concern in a media landscape that is changing due to technological and commercial developments.
- Gender imbalance continues in the media 20 years after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Change. All too few women journalists are able to reach decision-making positions in the media. For this reason, more than half of all the speakers at the conference will be women, executives and media professionals from all over the world.
- The third theme is digital safety, a topic of growing concern because digital communications makes it difficult for journalists to protect themselves and their sources.
During the conference, UNESCO will launch Building Digital Safety for Journalism, a study analysing key digital threats facing journalists and their sources. This is the most recent in a series of UNESCO publications designed to help journalists improve their professional security.
On World Press Freedom Day, 3 May (6 p.m.), the Director-General of UNESCO will award the World Press Freedom Prize to jailed Syrian journalist Mazen Darwish in a ceremony to be held in the presence of the President of Latvia, Andris Bērziņš. The laureate will be represented by his wife, journalist Yara Bader, who is also the Director of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom and winner of the 2012 Ilaria Alpi award for brave female journalists.
Other key participants at the UNESCO event in Riga will include Edgars Rinkēvičs, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia; Dace Melbārde, Minister of Culture of Latvia; David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression; Flavia Pansieri, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR; Peter Greste, an Al Jazeera correspondent who was imprisoned in connection with his work; Hamid Mir, Anchor on GEO TV who survived an assassination attempt in Pakistan; Philippines journalist and media innovator Maria Ressa, CEO of the news website Rappler; Cilla Benko, Director-General, Swedish Radio.
Media wishing to be accredited to the World Press Freedom Day events in Riga should contact UNESCO at pressfreedom(at)unesco.org, with copy to Mr Ming-Kuok LIM at mk.lim(at)unesco.org)