World Press Freedom Day
World Press Freedom Day is a United Nations holiday celebrated annually on May 3rd. Originally established by the General Assembly in 1993, the holiday is now run by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). World Press Freedom Day emphasizes universal rights as set forth in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which was written and adopted in 1948. This section of the Declaration states that everyone has the right to seek and relay information, regardless of their location or circumstances.
In the information age, we often take our access to news and events for granted in the United States. While freedom of the press is protected in the U.S. under the First Amendment of the Constitution, there are still some inherent obstacles in the ability to report information. This can lead to withheld information, as well as that of which is not correct. The situation is even direr in other nations, where the reporters may lose their lives over their jobs. World Press Freedom Day is not only set in place to protect the press, but it is also utilized as a tool to promote freedom of expression across all borders.
After the World War II, the world community made efforts to foster peace and universal human rights through the creation of the United Nations. The organization created the Declaration on Human Rights to help protect fundamental rights among all people. Still, not all countries have been on board with recognizing these rights, especially in some of the most oppressed areas of the world.
In 1993, the United Nations created World Press Freedom Day to raise awareness about the importance of a free press. Just two years earlier, the assembly had adopted the Windhoek Declaration to help foster freedom of the press in Africa. The organization found that not only is free press a human right, but the ideal also helps to foster democracy, as well as sound economics.
Celebrations and Awards
World Press Freedom Day is celebrated by groups big and small. UNESCO has an annual conference dedicated to the holiday, which is attended by press members from around the world. Since 1997, the organization has also awarded an annual UNESCO-Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize to a press member who has defied oppression and supports the overall goals of the mission of World Press Freedom Day. The award commemorates the Colombian reporter Guillermo Cano Isaza, who was assassinated in front of the El Espectador newspaper headquarters by drug gangs in 1986.
While UNESCO fosters peace through its celebrations, not all members of the press can openly observe the holiday. World Press Freedom Day keeps these members in mind as a reminder that many reporters and photojournalists defy their governments every day in an effort to spread freedom of information.
Goals in 2013
2013 marks the 20th anniversary since the first celebration of World Press Freedom Day. This year, UNESCO is holding its annual conference in Costa Rica May 2nd-4th. The theme is “Safe to Speak.” Awards and seminars will be held at the conference while the original mission to protect the freedom of the press will be emphasized on May 3rd.
The 2013 UNESCO-Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize is set to be awarded to Reeyot Alemu, a journalist from Ethiopia. She is known for her pieces on gender equality and poverty. Alemu was arrested in 2011 in Kaliti, where she is in the middle of serving a five-year sentence for her reporting.