World Press Freedom Day, celebrated annually by the nations of the world on May 3rd, is an opportunity to assess the achievements of the media sector, as well as the status of press freedom and the protection of the press and its independence at the global level.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has chosen for World Press Freedom Day 2019 the theme “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in an Age of Misinformation” in order to to identify the current challenges that the media face during an election period and to highlight the role of the media to promote the democratic process of states.
UNESCO considers that there is a strong link between the right to vote and the right to freedom of expression during an election period: in democratic systems, voters should be able to identify issues on their agenda and to vote freely and fully with the political background and programs of the candidates.
The Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, stressed the need to “guarantee freedom of opinion by allowing the free exchange of ideas and information based on real facts, at a time when the tone of speech Suspicion and reluctance towards the press and press work to delegitimize them” stress that freedom of the press is “the cornerstone of democratic societies”.
“The current conditions in our world, characterized by a political boil, involve all kinds of risks of exploitation and are accompanied by practices aimed at hindering the work of the press and preventing journalists from freely performing their tasks”, said Azoulay in a letter published on the occasion of the World Day. These practices include, for example, harassing, arbitrarily arresting and even killing journalists.
It also noted that “the UNESCO Observatory for the Killing of Journalists counted 99 murders of journalists in 2018”, noting that the total number of killings of journalists recorded by the Observatory between 1994 and 2018 amounted to 1 307.
“Impunity for crimes against journalists is a threat to all societies and requires us to be vigilant in all circumstances,” she said, calling for concerted international efforts to defend freedom of expression and ensure the safety of journalists. “No democracy can be reformed without the existence of free, pluralistic and independent media,” she added. “The independent press allows citizens to be informed of the real facts and to shape their point of view”.
The United Nations General Assembly declared World Day in 1993, following the recommendation adopted by the twenty-sixth session of the General Conference of UNESCO in 1991.