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WPF:30 Years After, The Press Still Under Threat-UN

By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja

The United Nations, Resident, and Humanitarian Coordinator, Matthias Schmale has said 30 years following the adoption of May 3rd as World Press Day (WFD), despite that the world has seen substantial progress, the Press still continues to suffer threats.

The UN Envoy stated this in his opening remarks at the UN event to mark the day which had the theme “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of Expression as a Driver for all Other Human Rights” which held in Abuja on Friday, May 5th, 2023.

According to Schmale, “Three decades have passed since the WPD Day was proclaimed, in which we have seen substantial progress towards achieving a free press and freedom of expression around the world and in Nigeria. He noted that the proliferation of independent media and the rise of digital technologies has enabled the free flow of information.

He however noted that ‘Media freedom, the safety of Journalists, and freedom of expression are increasingly under attack, which impacts the fulfillment of other human rights. In some parts of the world, media workers face mounting threats, including women journalists in particular. We are told that in 2022, 87 journalists were killed around the globe in the line of duty. the vast majority with impunity and a further 323 which I understand is on record.

‘In Nigeria during the recent elections, we were told by the international consortium of investigative journalists that 20 separate attacks were documented on journalists around the country. This obviously is unacceptable, being a journalist, is not a crime, and those responsible for working against journalists with violence, using violent means must be held to account.’ He recalled

‘The theme of this year, shaping the future of rights, freedom of expression as a driver for all other human rights reminds us that freedom of expression enshrined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is in many ways a prerequisite for human and other rights. Quoting the former UNSG, Koffi Annan who said “A free press is not a luxury, but is at the core of equitable development” so when people have the freedom to speak their minds and to freely seek the information that they need, will not only foster intellectual growth but contribute to the social and political process.

L-R: Prof. Abiodun Adeniyi (Baze University), UNHC, Matthias Schmale, A Rep.of the NHCR, O-I-C UNESCO Phillipe Delange, Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Journalist,(NUJ), comrade Emmanuel Ogbeche and Snr Human Rights Adviser, UN in Nigeria , Ms Adwoa Kufuor-Owusu

The Envoy further noted that “We all have a responsibility to protect and support those who at times risk their lives to speak truth to power, UNESCO will continue to lead UN efforts to keep media professional workers safe and help them seek justice. there is an upcoming workshop to train prosecutors on the freedom of expression and the safety of Journalists

He called on governments, civil society organizations (CSOs) and on citizens in general to promote and protect press freedom. he said again quoting Nelson Mandela ”Let us be inspired by the great Nelson Mandela who said “A critical independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy’ It is a perfect time for us to reflect and recommit to our fundamental principles, including the principle of freedom of defense

Speaking on WPF, he said “The World Press Freedom Day acts as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom. It is also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics and acts of ethics.it is an opportunity to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom and access the state of press freedom thought out the world and also protect the Press.

He further informed that the UN was not only celebrating the 30th anniversary of the WPF Day, “but also the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in fact the 30th anniversary of Vienna Conference Programme on the protection of human rights

He recalled that the United Nations General Assembly (UNCA) in Dec 1993 following the recommendations of UNESCO’s General Conference proclaimed May 3rd as World Press Freedom Day.

Meanwhile, in his welcome remarks, the Officer in Charge of UNESCO, Phillipe Delange said” Freedom of the press is the cornerstone of a democratic society, adding that, without the debate of ideas, without verifying facts without diversity of perspectives, democracy is a shadow in itself.

To ensure that information remains for the common good in this digital and information age, our member states have undertaken to support independent journalism to ensure a greater totality of online platforms and develop media and information literacy

The keynote address was presented by Prof. Abiodun Adeniyi (Baze University Abuja) while a panel session with representatives from the NUJ, NAWOJ and National Human Rights Commission (NHCR) was also presented.

A minute silence was also observed in honour of Journalists who had lost their lives in the line of duty all over the world.

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