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Media experts applaud new UNESCO report on press freedom, now supplemented with regional overviews

In what UNESCO’s Deputy Director-General has called a “landmark knowledge resource for governments, the media, academia, the private sector and civil society,” UNESCO released last week six regional overviews as a companion to the global report World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development.

The report analyzes trends in press freedom and media development along four dimensions: media freedom, pluralism, independence and safety.

In partnership with UNESCO, an Advisory Group of 27 international experts from civil society and academia contributed to the report, which was launched in Stockholm by UNESCO’s Director-General in March.

The report sparked an engaged discussion earlier this month at the International Conference of World Press Freedom Day, held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 5 and 6 May.

Deputy Director-General Getachew Engida opened the panel discussion, describing the uniqueness of World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development. It is the first report of its kind to cover the full range of press freedom issues, he said, with a clear articulation of the changing scope of media in the digital age.

“The study specifically focuses on trends,” he said. “It is a video clip, rather than snap shot. This facilitates understanding of press freedom as a process in motion, and an analysis of the trajectories propelling us forward.”

According to Advisory Group member Remzi Lani, Executive Director of the Albanian Media Institute, the report is “an important policy tool and an important advocacy tool.”

The newly released regional overviews offer a context that can be helpful for all media organizations, he added.

“Sometimes by comparing with others, you understand yourself better,” he remarked. “It is also useful to compare yourself with your neighbors for good practices and also to compare with other regions.”

Others see the report as an opportunity to stimulate further research at a time in which the media is undergoing profound transformation.

“It is more than a report,” said Rosental Alves, Professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “It is a convocation for more research at regional levels, like a laundry list for things that would help universities to figure out what is going on.”

The report explores major developments in press freedom since 2007 around the world, with in-depth studies of each of UNESCO’s regional voting groups:

Regional launch events are planned in the coming months in the United States and India.

World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development was produced with support from the Government of Sweden.

World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development, as well as the six regional overviews, is openly-licensed and available online at