World Press Freedom Day – a history

World Press Freedom Day takes place on May 3 and aims to promote freedom of press while commemorating those journalists who have lost their lives due to violent attacks through their involvement with the media. Created by the UN, its objective is to raise awareness of the fundamental human rights to free self-expression and access to information, to remind the government of their duty to uphold this right and encourage independent, diverse press. What does it stands for? Where did it come from as well as its history and relevance to the current day.

This day was officially declared by the UN in December of 1993 it’s currently celebrated as an occasion that allows us to understand and appreciate the basic principles of press release freedom. 2019 is the 26th anniversary of this day and takes place this year in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. It is organised by both the UN and UNESCO who initially suggested the idea 26 years ago. With a differing theme tied to each year, 2019 celebrates “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation”. The main intention this year is to tackle the attacks the media face on a daily basis, especially during times of elections.

Freedom of expression

The main rights that revolve around this day are the freedom of expression and the freedom of information. Free expression is an elementary human right stated under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948. It clearly declares, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.

In the hopes of making the freedom of expression a reality within our society, the UN have devised three main starting points that need addressing for change to occur. An environment that accepts and welcomes the diversity contained within the media sector is the first objective. Politicians who are willing to support and protect the emergence of this sector by law is another pivotal point in advancing the current system. While workers in the media adhering to the highest ethical and professional standards plays an additional role. If put in place correctly, these guidelines, designed to keep the peace, will allow the freedom of expression to prevail.

Freedom of information  

This coupled with the freedom of access and right to circulate information are both significant principals that come into play when looking for complete press freedom. There must be legal frameworks put in place to support this free access of information and trusting the accountability of the law is essential. Information is the fuel that drives this fire, meaning our ability to access it is of crucial importance. Information and how we interpret it can vastly alter the way in which we view the world and live our lives, shaping our political, social and economic perspectives of society. Forms of media untainted by prejudice provide us with a raw reflection of ourselves as a united community, allowing us to view society without any outside alterations or preconceptions. It is within these moments of reflection that provide societal connection and allow maintenance of objectives.

The UN use this day to progress and promote awareness and action on the subject of free press. They seek to analyse the situation worldwide in the hopes to offer workers within the media their own independence without fear or harassment while simultaneously commemorating past journalists. It is recognised that information flows through various communities at different rates with different levels of reliability. The UN aspire to unite these communities to encourage further understanding, connection and communication. This communication is the only way to access valid, unbiased information untainted by prejudice or opinion while representing an assorted range of viewpoints. This freedom of accurate information can only be gained through community convergence and engagement.

Relevance to today

This day is globally observed as a time dedicated to the exchange of thoughts on its current concern. It gives people the opportunity to pay homage to past media professionals in an engaging, communal setting. There are a range of sessions, conferences and more that take place throughout the day addressing various aspects of the given theme. A number of communities and organizations involve themselves in these assemblies often dedicated to journalist safety. This allows individuals to share and discuss research they may have come across and provides a platform through which individuals can share their two cents on the issue.
Though corrupt government action is often recognised as the primary hindrance to the formation for this type of media sector, the celebration of this widely influential day has a direct impact on the development of its current situation. Fighting the corrupt nature of the situation can only be done through the promotional freedom of both expression and information. The UN seek media freedom through these fundamental human rights to work towards empowering people. This acts as both a social and political process offering people both confidence and control. With this day now being celebrated worldwide, it works towards ensuring freedom for the media around the world is a priority, both independent and diverse. The combination of access to information and citizen participation in media can only promote a heightened sense of communal ownership. It empowers communities as individuals play a vital role in the decision-making process while also contributing to the maintenance of peace in a democratic nation.

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