UNESCO organizes a day of reflection and debate on Freedom of Expression
Increasing violence against journalists and the need to reinforce respect for diversity and freedom of expression will be the focus of an event at UNESCO Headquarters on Wednesday 14 January.
The event follows last week’s attack against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, and the hostage siege at a Kosher supermarket in Paris. Seventeen people lost their lives in this violence.
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova will open the programme with French cartoonist Plantu. Two round table debates will follow.
The first of these will be devoted to the safety of journalists. Speakers include Swedish journalist Magnus Falkhed, Janine Di Giovani, Middle East Editor of Newsweek, Georges Malbrunot from the French daily Le Figaro, John Ralston Saul, President of PEN International, Omar Belhouchet, a journalist with El Watan and Ernest Sagaga, head of Human Rights and Safety at the International Federation of Journalists.
The second Round Table, entitled “Intercultural Dialogue and Fragmented Societies will examine ways to advance respect for diversity and freedom of expression; how to build mutual understanding and tolerance across different media; harnessing media in fostering dialogue, and encouraging positive engagement of youth. Among the several participants will be former President of the French Constitutional Council Robert Badinter, Chief Rabbi of France Haim Korsia, the Rector of the Grand Mosque in Paris Dalil Boubakeur, and Moroccan author Tahar Ben Jelloun.
In the wake of last week’s terrible events and the massive, worldwide protests that followed, Irina Bokova – who participated in the 1.5 million strong Paris Solidarity March with French President Francois Holland and some 40 other heads of State and Government – made a solemn appeal for action.
"For UNESCO, this means, first, to continue supporting and advancing freedom of expression and of the press, fighting for the safety of journalists and against impunity,” the Director-General said. “We must bolster all our work in education, in promoting dialogue and understanding between cultures and religions. Fanatical violence reflects a perversion of the mind of its perpetrator, which can paralyze the thinking of those who are its victims, spreading fear, blocking all reasoning and facilitating simplistic assimilations. As sectarian violence spreads through hate speech, through lies and the manipulation of religion, we must respond by fostering tools that enable young people to resist such manipulations, and this brings us back to the founding principle of UNESCO -- since wars begin in the minds of men and women, we must build the defenses of peace in the minds of men and women."