Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies
Every year, 3 May is a date which celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom; to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.
UNESCO, the Government of Indonesia, and the Press Council of Indonesia will co-organize the World Press Freedom Day's main event and the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize Ceremony in Jakarta, Indonesia, from 1-4 May 2017.
National celebrations take place each year to commemorate this Day. UNESCO leads the worldwide celebration by identifying the global thematic and organizing the main event in different parts of the world every year.
The international day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a Recommendation adopted at the 26th Session of UNESCO's General Conference in 1991. This, in turn, was a response to a call by African journalists who in 1991 produced the landmark Windhoek Declaration on media pluralism and independence.
Advanced preparations are underway for a multi-faceted focus on journalists’ safety and impunity for crimes committed against them, at this year’s global celebration of World Press Freedom Day 2017 in Jakarta, Indonesia (1 to 4 May).
Under the global theme of Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies, participants will examine current challenges facing media, including the continuous trend worldwide of attacks against those who bring journalism to the public.
From 1 to 2 May, even before the main programme of the international conference, a safety training workshop will be organized by the Indonesian Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI - the Alliance of Independent Journalists). Supported by UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) and Norway, the training forms part of a larger project in the region, aimed at strengthening the professional skills of journalists and editors from Timor-Leste.
This capacity building initiative will be complemented by a second safety workshop by the US-based NGO, IREX, on 2 May, focusing on the organisation’s concept of integrated safety that combines physical, digital and psychosocial safety.
In addition, a consultative roundtable will be organized on 2 May to discuss the feasibility of a mechanism for the promotion and protection of freedom of expression and the safety of journalists within the region. Participants will seek to identify the most appropriate modalities for the region – whether a Special Rapporteur, an independent commission, or another modality.
During the main programme from 3 to 4 May, the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity will be tackled by experts from all over the world in three sessions, each providing a different angle on these topics.
One session, titled Journalists’ Safety and Tackling Impunity: How can crimes against media workers be addressed?, is organized by the press freedom NGO International Media Support. In this, panelists will discuss the current global and national mechanisms in place and examine new ways to counter violence against the media.
In a second discussion, the impact in the Asia-Pacific region of the United Nations’ flagship framework, the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, will be assessed. The outcomes of this session will feed into the Multi-stakeholder Consultation on Strengthening the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity that will be organized by UNESCO and OHCHR on 29 June 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland.
A third session will examine prospects to implement regional and national initiatives promoting press freedom and safety, in the form a roundtable titled Press freedom in Southeast Asia: the way forward, organized by the Southeast Asian Press Alliance.
Alongside the main events, a dedicated academic conference bringing together researchers specialized in the area of journalists’ safety is being organized. It builds upon the success of the previous edition in Helsinki, Finland during last year’s World Press Freedom Day.
Within the framework of UNESCO’s Research Agenda on the Safety of Journalists, the conference provides a platform for academic inquiry towards understanding and eventually countering the current trend of violent acts towards media workers. Ms Agnès Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Summary or Arbitrary Executions, will deliver the keynote.
A number of papers touching safety of journalists are also expected at the 6th annual conference of Orbicom (link is external), the International Network of UNESCO Chairs in Communication over 4-6 May. The event is called “Peace Journalism and Conflict Resolution in the Media” and is co-hosted by the Faculty of Communication, Universitas Pancasila, Jakarta.
The 24th edition of World Press Freedom Day will also see the award of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. More information about the event can be found on the official website. Registration to participate is open until 20 April 2017.
Our democracy needs a robust press to hold our leaders accountable and cover the important issues facing our communities.
But press freedom is under attack today, with government authorities seizing journalists’ phone records, detaining reporters at border crossings and demanding that journalists reveal the identities of confidential sources.
This kind of harassment doesn’t just affect “professional” journalists. The internet and new technologies have democratized media making, with more people taking up the tools of journalism. And after years of newsroom layoffs, many of the people who are most at risk are citizen journalists and indie reporters operating outside the mainstream press.
With more people than ever before engaged in media making, there are also more people who have a stake in defending press freedom.
The First Amendment belongs to all of us and the public has to have a seat at the table when new laws are being debated. We must leverage public pressure to make our leaders understand what the First Amendment means in the digital age, to beat back bad laws that threaten our rights to connect and communicate and to support new journalistic efforts in all their forms.
We envision a time when professional journalists, independent reporters and everyday U.S. residents are all free to commit acts of journalism. We envision a time when our First Amendment right to collect and disseminate news is understood and supported in culture, and protected in law. But to get there, we need an inclusive movement that mobilizes millions of Americans to fight for our rights to connect, communicate and cover our communities.
We envision a time when professional journalists, independent reporters, and everyday U.S. residents are all free to commit acts of journalism. We envision a time when our First Amendment right to collect and disseminate news is understood and supported in culture, and protected in law. But to get there, we need an inclusive movement that mobilizes millions of Americans to fight for our rights to connect, communicate and cover our communities.
We’re working toward this vision in three ways:
Building a Movement: Free Press is engaging activists around the country in the fight for our fundamental freedoms.
Reaching Out to Media Makers: Free Press is working with media makers, freelancers and citizen journalists, equipping them with the tools and resources they need to defend their rights and amplify their voice.
Forging a New Coalition for Press Freedom: Free Press is working with allies nationwide to connect and collaborate on a range of press freedom, media justice and open government issues at the local, state and national levels.