World Press Freedom Day 2017
Themes for 2017
At a time described by some as critical for journalism, World Press Freedom Day 2017 will focus on why it is vital to strengthen free and quality journalism to enable the media to effectively contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 16. Specifically, the interrelationships between freedom of expression, justice for all and the rule of law, peace, and inclusiveness will be explored.
Only when media are free, independent and pluralistic can they ensure that the rule of law is applied and respected in full. Conversely, only a legal framework that safeguards freedom of expression and freedom of information allows for such a media sector to emerge. Free media and an independent, effective judiciary play a mutually reinforcing role as pillars of democracy.
Journalists are not only major users of the cherished right to freedom of expression but also symbols of the extent to which a society tolerates and/or promotes freedom of expression. The current state of safety of journalists worldwide is discouraging: over the course of the last decade 827 journalists and media workers have been killed. Even more alarming is the fact that in less than one out of ten cases the perpetrators have been caught. Championed by UNESCO since 2012, the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity serves as the holistic multi-stakeholder platform on which these complex issues are tackled. Major progress has been made on the global normative front, most notably on international and regional fora, although much more remains to be done.
Judicial systems worldwide need to be strengthened with a key focus on protecting freedom of expression and the safety of journalists. The call of the 2030 Development Agenda for universal justice is relevant to all elements of the three “P” approach in ensuring a safe media environment: Prevention of violence against media; Protection of journalists in danger; and Prosecution of perpetrators of crimes committed against media professionals.
The digital era has enhanced opportunities for access to information, the creation and sharing of knowledge, facilitating exchange as well as intercultural dialogue. However, the rise of online hate speech shows that digital technologies also carry with them a number of challenges. One of these is striking the right balance between freedom of expression online and respect for equality and human dignity. Countering hate speech and violent extremism online calls for a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of tension and division within societies. The media can provide a platform for a multitude of voices and perspectives that can help strengthen tolerance, dialogue and critical thinking. They can also offer counter narratives to challenge the ideas promoted in violent extremism narratives. Finally, countering extremist narratives comes hand in hand with empowering media users with the skills needed to navigate the Internet, and interpret, reject and react to hateful and inciting messages.
By enabling the empowerment of citizens, freedom of information is a cornerstone of participatory democracy. It also plays an essential role in promoting accountable and effective institutions which support the rule of law.
Media are important actors in promoting social inclusion. Their potential to promote dialogue, reflect the diversity of opinions and perspectives in society, and challenge stereotypes and misrepresentations, is to be encouraged. Supporting pluralism and gender equality in the media is central to this process.
UNESCO’s concept of Internet Universality proposes four principles for an inclusive Internet that can contribute to the development of Knowledge Societies as foundations for sustainable development: Human Rights, Openness, Accessibility and Multi-stakeholder participation.
Only an inclusive society, facilitated by independent and pluralistic media and a safe media environment where the free flow of information is fostered, provides the necessary conditions to achieve a better future for all.
Click here to download the World Press Freedom Day 2017 Concept Note in full.