Addis Ababa, May 2, 2019: As the world celebrates World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) 2019, the African Union in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Government of Ethiopia, are hosting the global celebrations at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The celebration takes into consideration the emergence of citizen journalism, civilian oversight as well as the
challenges and opportunities for the media in an age of disinformation, as well as the major role social media has played in providing news in real time; but also fake news.
Over two thousand journalists, activists, government representatives and influencers from all over the world are assembled in Addis Ababa for the WPFD 2019, which is being held under the theme “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation”.
The main objectives of this event are;
1. To celebrate the fundamental principle of press freedom,
2. Evaluate press freedom around the world,
3. Pay tribute to those journalists that have lost their lives in the course of discharging their duties,
4. Award the 2019 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize intended to honor persons, organizations that have made contributions to the defence of press freedom.
The Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E. Kwesi Quartey, in his opening remarks, applauded the Ethiopian government for leading the way in allowing the media to undertake their duties effectively without fear or favour and also for moving 40 places up on the World Freedom Index in a short time.
“The media’s role is to inform, educate and in the process, be the democracy, good governance and human rights watch dog”. He added that social media contributes to ensure peace and stability by bringing out information which people would like to conceal”.
In conclusion he said, “Without peace, stability, and human rights there cannot be effective governance and without effective governance based on the rule of law guaranteeing an independent free press, Africa cannot hope to attain the Sustainable Development Goals or our Agenda 2063”.
Addressing the Meeting, the President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia H.E.Sahle-Work Zewde, said that this conference has a special meaning and significance for Ethiopia. She said the media industry has done a lot for the world, by informing and educating people on many important issues and must be given the free space to operate,
and that Ethiopia is ready to do that. The President urged the media practioners to continue practicing their lawful work fearlessly in order to get the people informed and educated.
The Director General of UNESCO, Madam Audrey Azoulay praised the media, saying it had “contributed a lot in making sure that peace and stability and human rights are the focus of every country”, and added that freedom of the media must be defended at all times. She further stated that UNESCO strongly condemns the killing of journalists and urged government institutions, civil society organizations (CSOs) to help protect the media practitioners at all times. In the protection and advancement of civic space, which are indispensable for education, science and culture, UNESCO and its partners are looking into the possibilities of achieving sustainable peace at UNESCO through pushing for progressive policy and regulatory frameworks, capacity building and other approaches”, she said. Since 2012, UNESCO has taken the lead in implementing the UN Plan of Action concerning Impunity in the Treatment of Journalists.
Dr.Vera Songwe, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) stressed that, the media industry over years has helped in the improvement of the democratic elections across the continent and therefore must be protected. “This year’s theme for World Press Freedom Day is an important recognition of the strategic
importance of the media in the democratic process and its ability to facilitate a culture of peace, unity dialogue if well harnessed. The role of the media in facilitating a free and fair process in elections cannot be overemphasized. We have seen for instance how in recent years’ vibrant media are increasingly helping to bring transparency in the process of voting and collating of poll all over the world”, she said.
The World Press Freedom Day celebrations kicked off on the first of May at the UN-ECA with a Joint Media Forum on the Challenges and Opportunities for the Media in the Age of Disinformation, A Design Thinking Workshop on Interactive Communication between the African Union and Citizens, an Interactive Lab on how Women can Combat Online Harassment in Journalism, Media and Election in Africa, among other exciting sessions.