World Press Freedom Day

The United Nations General Assembly declared May 3rd to be World Press Freedom Day to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and marking the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek, a statement of free press principles put together by African newspaper journalists in 1991.

UNESCO marks World Press Freedom Day by conferring the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize on a deserving individual, organization or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the deference and/or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, especially when this has been achieved in the face of danger. Created in 1997, the prize is awarded on the recommendation of an independent jury of 14 news professionals. Names are submitted by regional and international non-governmental organizations working for press freedom, and by UNESCO member states.

The Prize is named in honour of Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian journalist who was assassinated in front of the offices of his newspaper, El Espectador, in Bogotá, on 17 December 1986. Cano’s writings had offended Colombia’s powerful drug barons.

UNESCO also marks World Press Freedom Day each year by bringing together media professionals, press freedom organisations and UN agencies to assess the state of press freedom worldwide and discuss solutions for addressing challenges. Each conference is centred around a theme related to press freedom, including good governance, media coverage of terrorism, impunity and the role of media in post-conflict countries.

The 2011 World Press Freedom Day celebration is being held in Washington, D.C., USA on May 1-3. This will be the first time the United States has hosted the World Press Freedom Day celebration. The theme of this year’s event is 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers. The event will affirm fundamental principles of media freedom in the digital age—the ability of citizens to voice their opinions and access diverse, independent information sources—20 years after the original declaration was made in Windhoek, Namibia.