Ban Ki-Moon Decries Emergence of New Barriers to Press Freedom
by Aliyu U. Tilde, New York, 4 May, 2011
The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, has decried the emergence of new barriers to press freedom in the wake of new opportunities accorded by digital technology. He made the observation this morning while addressing a forum of journalists and bloggers at the United Nations in New York, as part of the activities commemorating the 20th anniversary of the World Press Freedom Day which was declared in Windhoek, Namibia in 1999.
While welcoming the contributions of such technologies to the empowerment of individuals, enriching news gathering and illuminating the hitherto hidden workings of governments, the Secretary-General regretted that "alongside these benefits stand old challenges such as the use of media to disseminate hatred and incite violence...and undeniable new barriers being imposed by States, including cyber-surveillance, digital harassment and censor the ship on the Internet."
The Secretary General called for the remembrance of journalist victims and honoring their memory by pursuing justice. He also called for better access to new media and communication technologies as a means of bridging the digital divide.
He closed his address by reaffirming the commitment of the United Nations to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which proclaims the right of all people to “seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.
Earlier, as part of the commemoration, on 3 May 2011, a message was jointly released by the UN Secretary-General, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navy Pillay, and UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bakova. In stated that despite the remarkable changes in the media landscape since the Windhoek Declaration in 1991, the objective of the UN and its organs remains the promotion of freedom of expression as the foundation for human dignity and the cornerstone of democracy.
The joint message also expressed the need for Internet access to become truly global as a channel through which all voices could be heard. All principles of freedom of expression, it said, must be brought to the on-line world.
The message also condemned the killings and jailing of journalists and called for their protection. It revealed that in the last decade alone, more than 500 journalists lost their lives in the pursuit of their profession, noting that sixty killings were reported worldwide in 2010 alone. Every week, it said, brings more reports of journalists and bloggers suffering from intimidation and violence.
The events commemorating World Press Freedom Day are organized this year by the U.S. Department of State and UNESCO. The events which started on Monday, 2 May 2011 in Washington will be completed in New York on Thursday, 5 May.