UNESCO celebrates World Press Freedom Day 2017

Photo credit: UNESCO Amman Office/2017


Amman, 7 May 2017 – To mark the global celebration of World Press Freedom Day (WPFD), UNESCO Amman Office was joined this year by the UNESCO Doha and Ramallah Offices for a sub-regional commemoration focusing on the topic, “Critical minds for critical times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just, inclusive societies.”

Under the patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Rym Ali, the event was hosted by the Royal Film Commission in Amman, and brought together media professionals, human rights advocates, law and policy makers, civil society organizations, UN agencies, and academics. During the event, UNESCO facilitated two panel discussions on the central role of freedom of expression and the right to information in the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“World Press Freedom Day serves to emphasize the importance of free and independent journalism, vigorously advancing the 2030 Agenda. Freedom of information defines the degree of openness and transparency within a society. The two dimensions are essential in fully exercising the right to free expression”, said Ms. Costanza Farina, UNESCO Representative in Jordan.

“I congratulate all media professionals on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day. I want to highlight the role of the Media Commission in promoting freedom of expression, which can be achieved through the continued partnership with professional media, which adhere to international standards of human rights,” said Mr. Mohammad Qutaishat, Director General of the Jordanian Media Commission.

“World Press Freedom Day should serve as a platform to remind us of the critical role of the press and other forms of media in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies and in achieving sustainable development. One this day, let us reaffirm our commitment to work in a concerted and effective manner towards contributing to sustainable development, and achieving all 17 SDGs”, said Mr. Anders Pedersen, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Jordan, during the event.

The first panel discussion focused on the media’s role in peace building. The media, as a community, can prevent and help to resolve conflict by disseminating accurate and timely information, creating awareness and knowledge, promoting transparent, accountable and participatory governance.

“Many initiatives have been put forward to develop the media, to encourage peace and support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Despite the intention of these initiatives, the results on the ground were not met with ambition," noted Ms. Nibal Thawabteh, Director of Media Development Center at Birzeit University, Palestine.

Dr. Elobaid Elobaid, Resident Representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Yemen, spoke about the role of the media in spreading a culture of tolerance and calling for peace, especially in areas of conflict, pointing out that the role of the media is "encouraging the parties to the conflict to fulfill their international obligations to spare civilians.”

Tackling the topic of hate speech, the second panel elaborated on the legal and non-legal measures to combat the proliferation of hate speech online. Panelists discussed how to counter hate speech in media through ethics and self-regulation, how Media and Information Literacy (MIL) can act as a tool for preventing hate speech and how strengthening partnerships between media and civil society to serves to promote balanced narratives.

As in the previous two years, the WPFD celebration in Amman was co-sponsored through the EU-funded project “Support to Media in Jordan.”

“Supporting independent, quality and ethical journalism is essential. By facilitating the free flow of quality and well-researched information on matters of public interest, and by acting as the ‘public’s watchdog’, independent media are the basis of a participatory democracy and a tool to make governments accountable for their actions,” said Mr. Andrea M. Fontana, EU Ambassador to Jordan during the event.

Every year, on 3 May, the international community gathers to celebrate World Press Freedom Day. It is an opportunity to commemorate the fundamental principles of press freedom, assess the state of press freedom throughout the world and pay full tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty. This year, UNESCO is also marking the 20th anniversary of the UNESCO Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize.

At a time largely seen as critical for journalism, the global celebration of WPFD 2017 took place in Jakarta, Indonesia, from May 2-4, 2017. It focused on why it is vital to strengthen independent and quality journalism to enable the media to effectively contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 16. Specifically, the interrelationships between freedom of expression, justice for all and the rule of law, peace, and inclusiveness were explored.

For more information on World Press Freedom Day, please visit: http://en.unesco.org/world-press-freedom-day-2017

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Background information:

UNESCO is known as the ”intellectual” agency of the United Nations. At a time when the world is looking for new ways to build peace and sustainable development, people must rely on the power of intelligence to innovate, expand their horizons and sustain the hope of a new humanism. UNESCO exists to bring this creative intelligence to life; for it is in the minds of men and women that the defences of peace and the conditions for sustainable development must be built. UNESCO’s mission in Jordan is to work with the government of Jordan and other stakeholders to provide effective high quality educational, scientific, cultural and communication programmes.

For more information about the work of UNESCO Offices in the region, please visit unesco.org/amman



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The writer, toby@law-democracy.org, is executive director of the Centre for Law and Democracy. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.