This year on the 3rd of May, the main celebration of World Press Freedom Day is taking place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A platform will be provided for the exchange on current issues, threats and achievements concerning freedom of the press.
The theme for World Press and Freedom Day 2019 is “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation” the theme discusses current challenges faced by media in elections, along with the media’s potential in supporting peace and reconciliation processes.
The event will also host an academic conference on the safety of journalists which will allow researchers from different disciplines to share and discuss recent research. This will be the fourth edition of the conference, aimed at bridging the gap between academic research, policy-making and journalism. The press plays a very important role in keeping people up to date with current news and even holds records of important points in history.
As in the previous years, World Press Freedom Day will host a Youth Newsroom, which will bring on board young journalists and journalism students to cover the event and expand their reporting skills.
The United Nations‘ 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers” (UNITED NATIONS)
Freedom of the press or freedom of the media is the principle that communication and expression through various media, including printed and electronic media, especially published materials, should be considered a right to be exercised freely. Such freedom implies the absence of interference from an overreaching state; its preservation may be sought through constitutional or other legal protections.
As the summit in Addis Ababa began on the 1st of May, the gender issue was brought up with sad reports of female journalists being the main targets of online abuse and harassment as a result of their gender. Some cases were so bad that some had to seek protection from private bodyguards for themselves and their families, some lost their jobs or while others had to seek asylum in countries abroad.
Some speakers called on partnership with global media advocacy and humanitarian firms to train women on their online safety and digital rights as well as push governments to enact laws that recognise online harassment as a crime so that attackers are prosecuted.
The press does really play a huge role in informing, criticizing and stimulating debate. The press unearths some of the worst happenings that are crucial in our lives and keep us in the know when it comes to matters that touch on the citizens of the country; this includes telling citizens about the government’s decisions as the press must be an active agent that brings to light any political disclosure.
Touching on our social and economic life is the press also, as it acts as a watchdog to protect public interest against malpractice and create public awareness.
World Press Freedom Day provides an opportunity to;
- Assess the state of press freedom throughout the world.
- Defend the media from attacks on their independence.
- Celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom.
- Pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
If the press is independent, responsible and enlightened, a constructive environment is created for all.
As the United Nations Secretary General- António Guterres said, “No democracy is complete without access to transparent and reliable information. It is the cornerstone for building fair and impartial institutions, holding leaders accountable and speaking truth to power.”