Every 3rd of May, the world celebrates World Press Freedom Day in order to spread and increase awareness about the importance of the freedom of the press and to remind governments about their duty to respect and advocate the right to freedom of expression. The date was first celebrated on 1993 and was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly after a recommendation at the 26th session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991. The date also marks the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek which is a statement of free press principles composed by African newspaper journalists in 1991.
World Press Freedom Day is a day which honors the basic principles of press freedom, evaluates the freedom of the press around the world, defends the media from attacks on their independence, and serves as a remembrance of the journalists who lost their lives in the exercise of their profession. It is an occasion to inform people about the violations against the freedom of the press and serves as a reminder that points out how dozens of countries around the world censor, fine, suspend and close down some publications, while journalists, editors, and publishers get harassed, attacked, detained, and in some instances, murdered. World Press Freedom Day is also an occasion to develop and support initiatives in favor of press freedom and to assess the state of press freedom around the world.
On World Press Freedom Day UNESCO bestows the UNESCO/ Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Press on an individual, organization, or institution that has significantly contributed to the defense and/or the promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, particularly when this has been achieved at the risk of one’s life. The prize was named in honor of the Colombian journalist, Guillermo Cano Isaza, who was killed in front of the offices of his newspaper El Espectator in Bogota on December 17, 1986. He lost his life because his writings had displeased the country’s powerful drug barons.
During World Press Freedom Day, media professionals, press freedom organizations and UN agencies gather together to evaluate the state of press freedom around the world and try to come up with solutions to address the challenges. The conference focuses on specific themes related to press freedom such as good governance, media coverage of terrorism, impunity and the role that media plays in post-conflict countries.
This year, the World Press Freedom Day focuses on several themes:
- New Frontiers on News Media which aims to discuss how internet-based applications, notably social networks, user-generated content, and micro-blogging, have given every internet user the opportunity to be a potential broadcaster and how it has empowered them to create, modify, and share digital content and knowledge with millions of other users
- A Legal and Regulatory Perspective, focuses on how to better protect the freedom of expression in the age of digital communication.
- New Barriers: Online Blocking, Censorship, Surveillance, Safety of Journalists and Bloggers
- And finally: The New Trends of Journalism which focuses on the challenges posed by the rise of internet and digital media on traditional news outlets.