UNESCO, African Union and Ethiopia Role Model on World Press Freedom?
Ethiopian Airlines, has been chosen as the Official Carrier for the 2019 World Press Freedom Day Global Conference to be held in Addis Ababa from May 1-3, 2019.
This conference is not without controversy, however. According to Journalists without Border, terrorism charges have been systematically used against journalists ever since the 2009 terrorism law took effect. The charges carry long jail sentences and allow the authorities to hold journalists without trial for extended periods. There has been no significant improvement since the purges that led to the closure of six newspapers in 2014 and drove around 30 journalists into exile. On the contrary, another six-month state of emergency was proclaimed in February 2018, which the government could again use to arrest critical journalists and ban the public from watching or listening to certain broadcast media. The Internet and social networks are often disconnected while physical and verbal threats, arbitrary trials, and convictions are all used to silence the media.
The conference is jointly organized by UNESCO, the African Union and the Government of Ethiopia under the theme ‘Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation’.
UNESCO Spokesperson Roni Amerlan said: ” The offer by countries to host World Press Freedom Day marks their recognition of the value of the right to press freedom and freedom of expression.
We have often held World Press Freedom Day celebrations in countries in transition and we do not think that we should restrict our support for the recognition of press freedom and their participation in this awareness-raising event to countries which rank at the top of NGOs’ rankings.
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. World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a Recommendation adopted at the twenty-sixth 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(link is external) on media pluralism and independence.
At the core of UNESCO’s mandate is freedom of the press and freedom of expression. UNESCO believes that these freedoms allow for mutual understanding to build a sustainable peace.
It serves as an occasion to inform citizens of violations of press freedom – a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered.
It is a date to encourage and develop initiatives in favour of press freedom, and to assess the state of press freedom worldwide.
3 May acts as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom and is also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics. Just as importantly, World Press Freedom Day is a day of support for media which are targets for the restraint, or abolition, of press freedom. It is also a day of remembrance for those journalists who lost their lives in the pursuit of a story.
The 26th celebration of World Press Freedom Day is jointly organized by UNESCO, the African Union Commission and the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. The main event will take place in Addis Ababa, on 1 – 3 May at the African Union Headquarters. This year’s theme“Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation” discusses current challenges faced by media in elections, along with the media’s potential in supporting peace and reconciliation processes.
World Press Freedom Day will also be celebrated worldwide. Events will be organized in several countries to raise awareness about the importance of press freedom and journalists’ safety. More information of events will be available in the Events Map soon.
As the United Nations agency with a specific mandate to promote “the free flow of ideas by word and image”, UNESCO works to foster a free, independent and pluralistic media and the safety of journalists.
As the official carrier, Ethiopian will provide air transport service to the 1000-1500 participants who will be coming to Addis Ababa from around the globe.
Group CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, Mr. Tewolde GebreMariam, remarked, “We are honored to have been chosen to serve as the official carrier for this year’s World Press Freedom Day Global Conference. We are all the more delighted to be part of this noble cause which seeks to advance press freedom around the world.
Global, regional and national media stakeholders, high-level government officials, and journalists from across the globe will take part in the conference which will be held at the African Union Commission headquarters.