In front of an audience of supporters of press and artistic freedoms, UNESCO last week launched its global report on World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development.
The occasion was a special session during the World Press Freedom Day global conference, held in Ghana, Accra over 2-3 May, 2018.
“We launched this Report alongside a companion UNESCO global report on Re/shaping Cultural Policies,” said UNESCO Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development, Guy Berger.
The joint launch aimed to signal common ground between media and cultural actors, who - with their audiences - have shared interests in freedom of expression, a diversity of cultural expressions, and media pluralism.
Speaking at the event was Marie Ottosson, Assistant Director-General of the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency, Sida, which helped to support part of the research underpinning the two reports.
Deputy Director-General of UNESCO, Getachew Engida, opened the event saying that the reports “embody UNESCO’s role as a laboratory of ideas and international understanding”.
“Both Global Reports, in implementing gathering pursue the same purpose: providing evidence for implementing Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16.10 on ensuring public access to information and protecting fundamental freedoms,” he stated.
The Deputy Director-General commended the reports to governments and other stakeholders as “new and valuable evidence to inform future policymaking” that could be used as a “roadmap and toolbox to design national policies and development strategies in the future”.
In her remarks, the Sida Deputy Director-General stated that “We sadly are well aware of the current global trends, where journalists, media actors, artists and cultural workers are targeted because of their courage and brave practices."
She added that UNESCO’s mandate to promote free flow of ideas is more relevant than ever, noting that “freedom of expression, and access to information, is a basic human right and a fundamental part of inclusive and peaceful democratic societies.”
Ottosson noted a gap between global legal and policy norms and their implementation. “We need to find ways to engage duty-bearers,” she said. “We should engage to make sure that inclusive governance and rule of law is being implemented.”
Speakers giving comments on the Freedom of Expression and Media Development report included Ramon Tuazon, President, Asian Institute of Journalism and Secretary-General of the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC), and Julie Reid, researcher, University of South Africa.
They highlighted the trends in challenges to the safety of journalists and the significance of continued gender inequality in media.
“Never before has global society experienced such attacks on media freedom, independence, safety,” said Tuazon.
Reid stated that gender equality in media should not be addressed simply for political correctness, but because it is also key for the credibility and viability of media institutions.
Participants highlighted the need to provide opportunities for journalists and artists to work and advocate together as threats to their freedom of expression continue to rise in the current international security climate. Between 2014 and 2016, 314 journalists were killed and there were 860 recorded attacks against artists according to both monitoring reports.
"Artists, like journalists, are often confronted with same type of laws – on anti-terrorism, insult, blasphemy – that are used to curtail freedom of expression principles. New approaches are needed that address all creative professionals working in the arts and the media," underlined Sara Whyatt (United Kingdom), former Deputy-Director of PEN International.
In the margins of this joint launch, UNESCO organized a two day workshop with key members of the artistic, cultural policy, human rights community and the justice department on the state of artistic freedom in Ghana.