World Press Freedom Day
World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) observed on 3 May, is an annual celebration of press freedom, organized by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The day aims to raise public and institutional awareness of freedom of information as a fundamental human right. The day also remembers the journalist who has lost their lives in the pursuit of a story.
Press freedom is deteriorating globally with journalists and writers increasingly facing harassment, threat, arrest, trial, and even death. It is a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics. It is a moment to stand with all journalists, to defend their safety.
History of Press Freedom Day
International Press Freedom Day has its origin in Windhoek at UNESCO general conference held in 1991. The event ended on 3 May with the adoption of the landmark Windhoek Declaration for the Development of a Free, Independent, and Pluralistic Press. The declaration triggered the proclamation of the 3rd May as World Press Freedom Day by the UN General Assembly in 1993.
It serves to inform people of violation of press freedom. In dozens of countries, the publications are censored, fined, suspended, and closed down, while journalists, editors, and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained, and even murdered. This day is celebrated to encourage people for press freedom and to assess the state of press freedom worldwide. The day enables people to defend the media from attacks on their independence.
UNESCO works to foster free, independent, and pluralistic media in print, broadcast, and online. Media development in this mode enhances the freedom of expression, and it contributes to peace, sustainability, poverty eradication, and human rights.
World Press Freedom Index 2021
Journalism is seriously restricted in 132 of 180 countries included in Reporters without Borders’ annual Press Freedom Index — a particularly dangerous state of affairs during the pandemic.
The Nordic Region of Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark ranked high on the list for having “good” press freedoms, while China, Turkmenistan, North Korea, and Eritrea are at the bottom. India has been placed at 142nd position among 180 countries in the latest World Press Freedom Index 2021, released on April 20, 2021. The worst region for press freedom remains the Middle East and North Africa.
World Press Freedom Day Theme
This year World Press Freedom Day 2021 theme is “Information as a Public Good”. The theme serves as a call for realizing the importance of information sharing for the public good, and exploring ways to strengthen the production, distribution, and reception of information, and granting transparency and empowerment while leaving no one behind.
The host city for the World Press Freedom Day conference 2021, is Namibia. It will take place on 29 April – 3 May in Windhoek. Ahead of the 2021 World Press Freedom Day (WPFD), Namibia and UNESCO hosted a kick-off event for the handover of the baton from the 2020 host country of this year’s Global Conference, the Netherlands. The year 2021 marks the 30th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration for the Development of a Free, Independent, and Pluralistic Press.
Press Council of India
To preserve the freedom of the press and to maintain and improve the standards of newspapers and news agencies in India and to inculcate principles of self-regulation among the press, the Government of India under the Press Council Act, 1978 has set up the Press Council of India, an autonomous, statutory, quasi-judicial authority. The Council has a chairman – traditionally, a retired Supreme Court judge, and 28 additional members of which 20 are members of media, nominated by the newspapers, television channels, and other media outlets operating in India.
How it is celebrated
Several organizations, members and partners, have embraced this opportunity to develop campaigns and initiatives that promote press freedom and to discuss the state of press freedom worldwide. There is an annual UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize that honors a person, organization, or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the defense and, or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, and especially when this has been achieved in the face of danger.
Various events and awards functions are held in India to salute the media who risked their lives and sometimes lost their lives on duty.
“The press should do what it can to minimize the abuse of power (self-scrutiny can help and so can competition), but we should also try to understand with clarity why and how press freedom can enrich human lives, enhance public justice, and even help to promote economic and social development.” – Amartya Sen
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