World Press Freedom Day is observed every year on the 3rd of May around the world. The United Nations General Assembly announced May 3 as the World Press Day or World Press Freedom Day in order to spread awareness on the significance of press freedom and to remind the government of its duty to uphold and respect the right to freedom of expression.
Media plays a vital role in reasserting the values on which the democracy of respecting rights has been built. Therefore, our government must help in keeping the journalists safe.
World Press Freedom Day 2019
World Press Freedom Day, 2019 was celebrated worldwide on the 3rd of May, Friday.
The World Press Freedom Day 2019 theme was “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation”.
The main event of the 26th World Press Freedom Day was celebrated at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The event was supported by UNESCO and the Government of Ethiopia and it mainly focused on the challenges faced by the media during the elections and the role of media in supporting peace and prosperity.
In India, the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication of Bhawanipur Education Society, Kolkata organized debates, essay writing competitions, quizzes and many more events on the occasion. The event also held seminars and talks on the importance of free and fair media in a democratic country.
In Nepal, a rally was organized ahead of World Press Freedom Day which highlighted the importance of press freedom and right of expression. Journalists across the nation along with the members of the civil society took part in the rally and discussed the issue of press freedom and condemned the misuse of the various media platforms for personal gains.
World Press Freedom Committee
World Press Freedom Committee was established in 1976 by a batch of independent journalists to promote and defend press freedom and cover 44 media organizations from around the world. The organization is a member of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange which functions in cooperation with several other organizations for press freedom, human rights experts, global advisors, and journalists. The organization is located in Argentina.
History of World Press Freedom Day
World Press Freedom Day serves as a reminder of the significance of free press in a safe and functioning society and acts to honor the journalists who have lost their lives while supporting a free press. Freedom of expression is a basic human right as listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19.
World Press Freedom Day was initially arranged in 1993 by the United Nations General Assembly as an initiative to reflect upon the freedom of press internationally. The day was marked on the jubilee of the Declaration of Windhoek, which is a statement of fundamentals of press freedom assembled in 1991 by the African Journalists to encourage a pluralistic and independent African press.
Why World Press Freedom Day is Celebrated
World Press Freedom Day celebrates the elementary principles of freedom of the press to assess the worth of press freedom worldwide and to protect media from attacks that are put on their independence. The day is also observed to salute those journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
It serves as an event to inform the citizens about the violations of freedom of the press- a reminder that in several countries across the world, publications are fined, suspended, censored and shut down, while editors, publishers, and journalists are attacked, detained, harassed and even murdered. It stands as a date to develop and encourage initiatives in approval of press freedom and also to appraise the state of freedom of the press worldwide.
How World Press Freedom Day is Celebrated
World Press Freedom Day is observed in more than 100 nations worldwide. The event ranges from cultural performances and demonstrations to round tables to determine the significance of press freedom. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) coordinates the initiatives of several nations and most of the time serve as an organizing partner to foster the freedom of expression.
UNESCO also marks the day by conferring awards on deserving organizations, individuals or institutions that have made commendable contributions in the promotion and defense of press freedom in any part of the world, specifically when the achievement is made in the face of danger. Some of the examples of events held in a recent year across the world are as follows:
While the number of journalists being attacked on duty has been reduced, it still goes on at an alarming rate. Investigate reporting has become extremely dreadful in India where 54 journalists were attacked and 7 lost their lives in the year 2016-17. India is ranked as 136th in the world to be the worst country for journalism.
Therefore, Press Freedom Day is extremely vital in India to raise awareness about the essence of press freedom among its citizens. In fact, this year on the World Press Freedom Day Media Institutions Act and both houses of the Parliament have passed a law for the protection of journalists while they are on their duties.
In India, Press Freedom Day is usually celebrated to salute the media professionals who risked their lives or sometimes even lost their lives in the line of duty. Many government officers, civil servants, and ministers take part in the day through various events like art exhibitions, award nights to honor those who risked their lives to bring news to the world, etc.
World Press Freedom Day is celebrated in South Africa with great enthusiasm. The day is a celebration of the commitment and hard work by the journalists in presenting life-changing information that allows people to understand their societies better. Each year, the Media Institute of South Africa (MISA) pays tribute to all those journalists who were murdered for their utmost commitment in South Africa and other parts of the world.
Commemorative celebrations are held in nine countries of South Africa. Usually, Press Freedom Day commences with breakfast for editors, journalists, representatives of the diplomatic community, government officials and representatives of the civil society. MISA also releases its annual publication of media freedom.
Costa Rica has achieved the highest rank for press freedom in America. It is also ranked as 6th internationally in the recent press freedom index. The country is dedicatedly committed to press freedom and freedom of expression. As Costa Rica is relatively safe for journalists and media professionals, the day is celebrated in the country to mark its success in the industry and to make people aware of the freedom of the press. Various conferences, panel discussions, and media events are organized to discuss the issue of press freedom with media experts.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs, Argentina celebrates World Press Freedom Day by holding international seminars in accordance with the themes prescribed by UNESCO. It provides a space for the exchange of dialogues between international experts and local officials including access to information and transparency. The event is generally open for journalists, civil society organizations representatives as well as the common public.
Apart from this, a special program of news is broadcasted on TV channels of Argentina to mark the World Press Freedom Day in which special anchors interview the representatives and experts of the media industry. Other events like workshops, conferences and seminars are also organized for the day.
World Press Freedom Day is a crucial occasion to acknowledge the basic fundamentals of freedom of the press, to protect media from attacks on the independence and to salute the ones who have lost their lives in practicing journalism. In Cambodia, various conferences and events are organized to discuss how the problems of media freedom can be prevented.
Large media campaigns are organized to spread awareness on the right to information wherein directors of civil society, government representatives and ministers of women affairs take part. Panel discussions are also organized to address the challenges faced by journalists and media.
Suggestions for Celebrating Press Freedom Day in India in Better Way
India has been ranked very poorly on the list of the Press Freedom Index 2013, as released by the RWB-Reporters without Borders. It comes on 136th position out of the 179 listed countries in freedom of the press. While the ranking has been continuously reduced since the period of 2002, it still needs to do a lot in this direction.
Though our Indian constitution does not mention the word ‘press’ anywhere in the rights, it offers the right to freedom of speech and expression. Yet, this right is subject to certain restrictions for reasons of protecting the security, integrity, and sovereignty of India. Laws like the Prevention of Terrorists Act and Officials Secrets Act have been utilized in order to limit press freedom.
Press Freedom Day offers a very good platform to raise awareness about the issue of press freedom in India. Here are some suggestions to celebrate the day in the country.
People must gather their friends and family members and organize events on spreading awareness about the freedom of the press. People can also use #WorldPressFreedomDay on various social media platforms to raise awareness for press freedom.
The government of India must collaborate with UNESCO and organize major events, conferences, and seminars on the problems of press freedom in India along with its solutions. General public and journalists must be invited to attend those events.
A national action plan must be created for the protection of journalists. Aggression and murders towards the journalists must be treated as a cognizable offense.
Schools and colleges of the country must also initiate towards the celebration of the day by conducting small functions on press freedom so that students gain knowledge about the day.
The theme of World Press Freedom Day
Since 1998, World Press Freedom Day started adopting different celebration themes every year by bringing together media professionals, press freedom organizations and UN agencies to access the state of press freedom worldwide and discuss solutions for addressing challenges. Each conference is based on a theme linked with press freedom, terrorism media coverage, impunity, good governance and media’s role in post-conflict countries.
The World Press Freedom Day 2019 theme is “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation”.
Previous Years Themes are:
- The World Press Freedom Day 2019 theme is “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation”.
- The theme of 2018 was “Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and the Rule of Law”.
- The theme of 2017 was “Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies”.
The World Press Freedom Day theme for 2016 was: “Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms – This Is Your Right!”.
- The World Press Freedom Day theme for 2015 was: “Let Journalism Thrive! Towards Better Reporting, Gender Equality, and Safety in the Digital Age”.
- The World Press Freedom Day theme for 2014 was: “Media Freedom for a Better Future: Shaping the post-2015 Development Agenda”.
- The World Press Freedom Day theme for 2013 was “Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media”.
- The World Press Freedom Day theme for 2012 was “New voices: media freedom helping to transform societies”.
- The World Press Freedom Day theme for 2011 was “21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers”.
- The World Press Freedom Day theme for 2010 was: “Freedom of information: the right to know”.
- The World Press Freedom Day theme for 2009 was: “Dialogue, mutual understanding, and reconciliation.”
- The World Press Freedom Day theme for 2008 was: “Celebrating the fundamental principles of press freedom.”
- The World Press Freedom Day theme for 2007 was: “The United Nations and the freedom of the press.”
- The World Press Freedom Day theme for 2006 was: “The media as drivers of change”.
- The World Press Freedom Day theme for 2005 was: “Media and Good Governance”.
- The World Press Freedom Day theme for 2004 was: “Who decides how much information?”.
- The World Press Freedom Day theme for 2003 was: “The Media and Armed Conflict”.
- The World Press Freedom Day theme for 2002 was: “Covering the War on Global Terrorism”.
- The World Press Freedom Day theme for 2001 was: “Combating racism and promoting diversity: the role of free press”.
- The World Press Freedom Day theme for 2000 was: “Reporting the News in a Dangerous World: The Role of the Media in conflict settlement, Reconciliation and peace-building”.
- The World Press Freedom Day theme for 1999 was: “Turbulent Eras: Generational Perspectives on Freedom of the Press”.
- The World Press Freedom Day theme for 1998 was: “Press Freedom is a Cornerstone of Human Rights”.
Media plays a very crucial role in the development of any country. Common people are educated about what is going on in society and about the issues and events which affect their lives. Thus, journalists and media experts must be given the utmost safety while they are delivering their duties and also complete freedom of speech. Press freedom is a very serious issue and must be given due importance.
World Press Freedom Day serves as a platform to remind us of the essence of preserving strong journalists at the time when they are facing increasing challenges. It also serves as an opportunity to call upon each and every pluralistic and independent media for global access to information and reserving freedom of the press in every aspect.