World Press Freedom Day climaxes today

BY: Rosalind K. Amoh
World Press Freedom Day climaxes today
World Press Freedom Day climaxes today

An awards ceremony and adoption of a communique will climax this year’s global commemoration of World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) in Windhoek, Namibia, today.

The climax follows six days of deliberations by journalists representing various countries and other stakeholders who have convened in the Namibian capital to commemorate this year’s event and also mark the 30th anniversary of the WPFD.

To be known as the Windhoek + 30 Declaration, the Global Conference, in adopting the communique, will call for an urgent need to address the threat of extinction faced by local news media around the world, a crisis worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It will also put forward ideas to tackle the challenges of the online media environment, push for more transparency, call for the strengthening of the safety of journalists, improvement in their working conditions and the support of independent media houses.

The Windhoek +30 Declaration will be a drafted document from the reviews of the six regional seminars triggered by the 1991 seminar in Windhoek, which inspired regional declarations to promote a free, independent and pluralistic press after similar seminars held in Alma-Ata (1992), Santiago (1994), Sana’a (1996), and Sofia (1997).

It will be adopted by the over 500 journalists present at Windhoek, including the President of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Mr Affail Monney, as well as other international bodies seeking the interest and welfare of journalists around the world.

Mr Monney is also attending the event as the representative of the Federation of African Journalists, of which the GJA is a member.

World Press Freedom Day

The Windhoek Declaration was adopted in 1991 after African journalists pressed for a free, independent and pluralistic African press at a seminar organised by the UN and UNESCO in the Namibian capital.

The declaration also triggered the proclamation of May 3 as World Press Freedom Day by the UN General Assembly.

The government of Namibia, in collaboration with UNESCO, is hosting this year’s event which is a combination of in-person attendance and a virtual programme.

This year’s commemoration is on the theme: “Information as a public good”, and it is a call to affirm the importance of cherishing information as a public good and exploring what can be done in the production, distribution and reception of content to strengthen journalism and advance transparency and empowerment, while leaving no one behind.

The theme also recognises the changing communications system that is impacting health, human rights, democracy and sustainable development in countries across the world.

Aside from the adoption of the communique, other significant activities have been held as part of the global conference.

2021 Global Conference & Award

Yesterday, investigative journalist and media executive, Ms Maria Ressa of The Philippines, was presented with the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.

The $25,000 prize honours a person, organisation or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the defence or promotion of press freedom, especially in the face of danger.

It is named after Guillermo Cano Isaza, the Colombian journalist who was assassinated in front of the offices of his newspaper, El Espectador, in Bogotá, Colombia, on December 17, 1986.

Ms Ressa, who was named the recipient following the recommendation of an international jury of media professionals, is an investigative journalist and media executive,

During a career spanning more than 30 years, Ms Ressa has worked as CNN’s lead investigative reporter for Asia and the head of ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs.

She has also been involved in many international initiatives to promote press freedom.

In recent years, she has been the target of online attacks and judicial processes relating to her investigative reporting and status as manager of online outlet, Rappler.

She has been arrested for alleged crimes related to the exercise of her profession and has been subjected to a sustained campaign of gendered online abuse, threats and harassment, which at one point resulted in her receiving an average of over 90 hateful messages an hour on Facebook.

Remember COVID-19 victims

Also last Saturday, a solemn ceremony was held to remember journalists who had fallen victim to the COVID-19 pandemic since last year.

On the theme: “Remember the dead, fight for the living”, the event, led by the International Federation of Journalists, paid tribute to journalists who had died from COVID-19.

In remembering the fallen journalists, the Swiss organisation, Press Emblem Campaign, said more than 600 journalists had died worldwide due to the pandemic.

The organisation, based in Geneva and founded in June 2004, by a group of journalists from many countries, said, however, that it was difficult to indicate exactly how many journalists were infected at work or in their line of duty and those who were infected in their private lives.

"Because of their profession, journalists who go into the field to inform are indeed particularly exposed to the virus. Some of them, especially freelancers and photographers, cannot only work at home," said PEC Secretary General, Blaise Lempen.

Ghana celebration

In Ghana, the day will be marked tomorrow (May 4) with the GJA, in collaboration with UNESCO, holding a symposium and flag-raising ceremony at the Ghana International Press Centre in Accra.

The event will be chaired by the Chairman of the National Media Commission, Mr Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafoh, with the Minister of Information, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, as the Guest of Honour.

Other dignitaries to grace the occasion are the UNESCO Country Director, Mr Abdourahamane Diallo; the United Nations Resident Co-ordinator, Mr Charles Abani, the US Ambassador to Ghana; Mrs Stephanie S. Sullivan, and the Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation in Ghana, Ms Diana Acconcia.