Freedom of expression is a fundamental right and a cornerstone of democratic society enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Every individual has the right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers.
Protecting freedom of expression and the safety of journalists who work to disseminate information is of great concern to us all. A silenced journalist mutes the voices of the people and curbs their right to know. In light of this threat to the fundamental right to freedom of expression, UNESCO is working around the globe to support journalists and help build peaceful, just and inclusive societies.
Supporting the sustainability of community media, through the promoting of favorable policy by duty-bearers, is essential to ensure a pluralistic media environment. Community media, the third branch of media, has an increased capacity to focus on pressing local issues, that often remain unreported in mainstream sources. They allow for more relevance and representation in media content, by covering topics that matter to marginalized populations, in local languages. Simultaneously, the capacity of audiences to better engage with the media, assess the information they receive and enter into discussions regarding their rights on- and offline is equally essential. In this manner, UNESCO is contributing to the development of a healthy relationship between a reliable and responsive media and their informed audiences of all ages.
UNESCO’s Multi-Donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists (MDP) is open to contributions. The programme’s inherent flexibility means interventions can be designed and implemented where they are needed most and can be scaled to have the greatest impact.
The MDP falls under two main areas of action:
The digital age has created openings for new forms of democratic pluralism; women journalists are able to develop an online presence liberated from newsroom hierarchies, and citizen journalists and activists have access to modes of mass communicating that were previously unthinkable. At the same time, we sare witnessing the rise of ‘fake news’ stories that shroud the truth and muddy information. Social media algorithms create virtual echo chambers while governments continue to shut down the Internet, notably before elections. Journalists are under wide-ranging attack, facing rising violence. UNESCO’s work in strengthening the rule of law and justice for journalists is crucial in safeguarding freedom of expression and freedom of information.
As the only UN agency with a specific mandate to promote “the free flow of ideas by word and image,” UNESCO works to foster free, independent and pluralistic media in print, broadcast and online. UNESCO’s work supports Sustainable Development Goal 16, which recognizes the importance of public access to information and seeks to “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.” Specifically, target 16.10 aims to “Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.”
The UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity (UN Plan) is a systematic UN-wide plan to work towards a free and safe environment for journalists and media professionals. Developed in 2012, this flagship programme provides an overarching framework for co-operation between all relevant stakeholders, including UN bodies, national authorities, media actors, and national, regional, and international organisations.
Our two-pronged approach – working with Member States and citizens – creates an environment where good governance and a sustainable and human rights-centred development agenda can flourish. UNESCO fosters freedom of expression by working on global norms and standards concerning press freedom and journalists’ safety, monitoring and reporting, conducting awareness-raising activities, supporting capacity-building trainings and workshops, and research.
A Multi Donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists, was approved by the Executive Board, in its 200th session (Decision 19), to help facilitate UNESCO’s work to implement the Programme of the Organization’s Communication and Information Sector, as outlined in the C/5, under Expected Result 1. The Multi Donor Programme can support activities to promote the adoption and application of relevant policies and normative frameworks to strengthen the environment for freedom of expression and press freedom and to support sustainable and independent media institutions. Funds in the Multi Donor Programme also contribute to the achievement of Expected Result 2, such as activities to facilitate pluralism and participation in media, promote gender equality in both media production and content, and empower citizens with increased media and information literacy competencies. The account falls under the authority of the Director-General and is managed by the CI Secretariat at Headquarters... more