Commonwealth_ May 3rd, 2023 marked the 30th anniversary of the international day of press freedom since its proclamation in 1993 by the UN General Assembly. UNESCO organized a special event under the theme “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of expression as a driver for all other human rights”, at the UN headquarters in New York to celebrate and signify the importance of freedom of expression to enjoy and safeguard other human rights.
Since its inception 30 years ago, World Press Freedom Day has been a focal point to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, assess the state of international press freedom and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty. The day also stands as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment and cooperation to press freedom.
This 30-year edition of World Press Freedom Day included a day complete with activities on the 2nd of May while UNESCO invited global media partners, academics, and civil society to organize gatherings and conversations around this year’s topic. Another aspect of the World Press Freedom Day 2023 was the presentation of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize which honors the tireless and life-threatening efforts made by journalists for the purpose of safeguarding the public’s right to access essential information. This year’s UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize laureates were three imprisoned Iranian women journalists, namely Niloofar Hamedi, Elaheh Mohammadi, and Narges Mohammadi for their remarkable reporting which brought on a historical women-led movement in Iran.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland in her message commemorating World Press Freedom Day stated that this day signifies the simple truth that all our freedom depends on the very concept of press freedom.
“It gives all of us the facts we need to shape opinions and speak truth to power. And as this year’s theme reminds us press freedom represents the very lifeblood of human rights,” said Scotland.
The Commonwealth Secretary further highlighted that freedom of the press is being challenged every day, globally. “Truth is threatened by disinformation and hate speech seeking to blur the lines between fact and fiction, between science and conspiracy,” she said.
Bringing awareness to the relentless harassment and unjust treatment faced by journalists in the face of uncovering the truth, Patricia Scotland noted, “Journalists and media workers are directly targeted on and offline as they carry out their vital work. They are routinely harassed, intimidated, detained, and imprisoned. At least 67 media workers were killed in 2022 — an unbelievable 50 per cent increase over the previous year. Nearly three-quarters of women journalists have experienced violence online, and one in four has been threatened physically.”