World Press Freedom Day is annually observed on May 3. It is a day to recognize the important service provided by press professionals. It is commemorated by the United Nations to observe the fundamental principles of press freedom around the world. By celebrating World Press Freedom Day, journalists and democracy advocates contribute to defending the freedom of speech, access to information, and the independence of the media, all of which suffer constant attack across the world. This day also honors the journalists who have been killed in the name of their profession. To observe this day let us encourage those who want to learn about becoming voice of others and find them resources for education.
HISTORY OF WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY
Journalists are essential to bringing the facts, revealing the truth to the public, and maintaining awareness and transparency. Because they bother the powerful and enemies of democracy so much, journalists are frequent targets of attacks, and many are murdered. After a series of attacks on journalists during the African Civil Wars at the end of the 20th century, they decided to take action.
In 1991, a group of African journalists appealed at a UNESCO conference held in Namibia’s capital, Windhoek. They created the “Windhoek Declaration,” a document that intended to lay the foundation for a free, independent, and pluralist press. In 1993, the 26th session of the UNESCO General Conference responded to the call of the signatories of the Windhoek Declaration and founded World Press Freedom Day.
The central principle developed by UNESCO for the day is freedom of the press and of expression, to allow communication based on mutual understanding, which is the only way to build sustainable peace in contemporary societies. The observance serves as a reminder that even today, dozens of countries around the world censor, fine, suspend, and close publications that displease the powerful locals. Many persecute, attack, and even murder members of the press.
Each year, World Press Freedom Day has a specific theme, and in 2022, it is ‘Journalism Under Digital Siege.’
WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY TIMELINE
The Birth of the Modern Press
The first periodical, the monthly “Notizie Scritte,” is published in Venice.
Technical and Demographic Changes
Powerful printing machinery, new and cheaper papermaking techniques, and an expansion of literacy, leads to the exponential growth of the press.
Journalism Versus Political Propaganda
Journalism is severely attacked and subsumed by political propaganda committees, yet many journalists, intellectuals, and photographers manage to document the atrocities of the different wars and keep the world informed.
The “Windhoek Declaration”
African journalists, covering the continent's various civil wars, gather in Namibia to establish the “Windhoek Declaration.”
World Press Freedom Day
At the 26th General Conference of UNESCO, the World Day for the observance of freedom of the press is enacted.
WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY FAQS
What is the meaning of World Press Freedom Day?
It is an observance day that celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom and pays tribute to journalists who lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.
Which country has topped world press freedom?
According to the latest assessment, the top-ranked countries on the Press Freedom Index are Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Jamaica, New Zealand, Ireland, Portugal, and Switzerland.
Why is press freedom important?
A free press helps maintain the balance of power in government. Several journalists around the world were killed while working towards the development of free and open societies.
HOW TO OBSERVE WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY
Organize conventions to publicize the day
The U.N. provides material for publicizing the event and for studies on the topic. Use these materials to organize meetings or promote discussions among friends, family, and co-workers on World Press Freedom Day.
Learn to identify fake news
Celebrate the work of journalists by verifying the facts. Gathering information and checking the facts is a practice that everyone should adopt.
Remember those who changed history
Recent history is full of deviations and transformations achieved through the press. Governments have fallen, wars have ended, and movements have risen because of their good work. Today, honor all those who gave their lives to bring the truth to the public and changed the course of history.
SOME IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT PRESS FREEDOM
The Greeks value it most
Nine out of 10 Greeks say it is very important for the media to be able to report the news without government censorship.
In Lebanon, it has few defenders
Only 28% of the Lebanese population think freedom of the press is very important.
Populists hate press freedom
In Western countries, only 35% of people with populist views find freedom of the press important.
Scandinavia has the freest press
Norway, Finland, and Sweden make up the top three countries in the freest press index.
The imprisonment of journalists has grown
The persecution and arbitrary arrest of journalists around the world are on the rise, with Turkey, China, and Egypt leading the race.
WHY WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY IS IMPORTANT
It strengthens democracy
World Press Freedom Day helps to put pressure on countries that censor and persecute the press. It represents a major obstacle against authoritarianism.
We value journalism as a public good
Celebrate this day proudly. It shows the value we place on the public service provided by ethical journalists committed to the truth.
It honors the memory of the dead
World Press Freedom Day is important because it reminds us of those who gave their lives to keep the population informed. It honors their memory and ensures their sacrifice is not in vain.
ABOUT WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY:-
World Press Freedom Day gives people the chance to pay tribute to media professionals who risked or lost their lives in the line of duty. Many communities, organizations, and individuals take part in this day through various events such as art exhibitions, dinners featuring keynote speakers, and awards nights to honor those who risked their lives to bring news to the world.
World Press Freedom Day is a global observance and not a public holiday.
World Press Freedom Day was established by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December 1993 as an outgrowth of the Seminar on Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press. This seminar took place in Namibia in 1991 and led to the adoption of the Windhoek Declaration on Promoting Independent and Pluralistic Media.
The Windhoek Declaration called to establish, maintain, and foster an independent, pluralistic, and free press. It emphasized the importance of a free press for developing and maintaining democracy in a nation, and for economic development. World Press Freedom Day is celebrated annually on May 3, the date on which the Windhoek Declaration was adopted.
Although World Press Freedom Day has only been celebrated since 1993, it has much deeper roots in the United Nations. Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights states that 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.”
Each year since 1997, the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize is awarded to honor the work of an individual or an organization defending or promoting freedom of expression, especially if it puts the individual’s life at risk. The award is named for Guillermo Cano, a Colombian journalist murdered in 1986 after denouncing drug barons.
Why The World Press Freedom Day?
The World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) is an annual celebration of press freedom, observed on 3rd May every year.
The day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993, following the recommendation of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991.
The day also marks the 1991 Windhoek Declaration (adopted by UNESCO).
It aimed towards the ‘development of a free, independent and pluralistic press’.
Three Key Highlights of WPFD 2021:
Steps to ensure the economic viability of news media.
Mechanisms for ensuring transparency of Internet companies.
Enhanced Media and Information Literacy (MIL) capacities that enable people to recognize and value, as well as defend and demand, journalism as a vital part of information as a public good.
World Press Conference 2021:
The 2021 Global Conference was hosted by UNESCO and the Government of Namibia.
It called for urgent attention to the threat of extinction faced by local news media around the world, a crisis worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.
It put forward ideas to tackle the challenges of our online media environment, push for more transparency of internet companies, strengthen safety of journalists, and improve their working conditions.
Freedom of Press in India
Freedom of press is not expressly protected by Indian legal system but it is impliedly protected under article 19(1) (a) of the constitution, which states - "All citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression".
In 1950, the Supreme Court in Romesh Thappar v. State of Madras observed that freedom of the press lay at the foundation of all democratic organisations.
However, Freedom of press is also not absolute. It faces certain restrictions under Article 19(2), which are as follows-
Matters related to interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.
India has been ranked 142nd out of 180 nations in the World Press Freedom Index, 2021, published by Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) or Reporters Without Borders.
Reports such as ‘Freedom in the World 2021 (Freedom House, US)’, ‘2020 Human Rights Report (US State Department)’, ‘Autocratisation Goes Viral (V-Dem Institute, Sweden)’ have all highlighted intimidation of journalists in India.
The main celebration is organized by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The theme for WPFD 2021 is “Information as a Public Good".
Some important FAQs:-
Why is World Press Freedom Day celebrated?
Celebrated every 3rd of May, this year's theme for the Day will be “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of expression as a driver for all other human rights” (working title), signifying the enabling element of freedom of expression to enjoy and protect all other human rights.
What is the theme of this year's World Press Freedom Day?
This day highlights a basic truth: all our freedom depends on press freedom. Freedom of the press is the foundation of democracy and justice. It gives all of us the facts we need to shape opinions and speak truth to power. And as this year's theme reminds us, press freedom represents the very lifeblood of human rights.
Which is the World Press Freedom Day?
Many IFJ affiliates are taking action to mark World Press Freedom Day on 3 May. Here is a non exhaustive list of their initiatives.
Is freedom of press Important?
Freedom of the press is the most important wheel of democracy. Without a free press, a democracy cannot exist. In fact, the press is a great medium that conveys the truth to people. However, it cannot function fully if the press is not free.
Who started National Press Day?
About: It was first set up in 1966 under the Indian Press Council Act, 1965, on the recommendations of the first Press Commission, with the two-fold objective of preserving the freedom of the press by maintaining and improving the standards of newspapers and the news agencies in India.
Who released World Press Freedom Day?
World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of UNESCO's General Conference. Since then, 3 May, the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek is celebrated worldwide as World Press Freedom Day.
What is the role of the press?
The backbone of any democracy is an independent, professional and responsible media. Their role is to inform, criticise and stimulate debate.