9 May 2003

Press Freedom, Pluralism of Content Must Go Together, Secretary-General Says in Message for World Telecommunication Day

NEW YORK, 8 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan for World Telecommunication Day, 17 May:

The theme of World Telecommunication Day -- "Helping all of the world's people to communicate" -- reminds us once again of the crucial role of communication in all areas of human endeavour. It also reminds us that millions of people in the poorest countries are still excluded from the "right to communicate", increasingly seen as a fundamental human right.

"Helping all of the world's people to communicate" is an integral part of the Millennium Development Goals, agreed upon by Heads of State and government at the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000. In particular, the eighth Millennium Development Goal aims "to develop a global partnership for development" and, "in cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications technologies". Information and communication technologies must be used to bridge the digital divide and accelerate progress in the poorest corners of the world.

Free and informative media are also a cornerstone of the information society and essential to helping all of the world's people to communicate. At the same time, the "content divide" between developed and developing countries must be addressed, encouraging media organizations and individuals in developing countries to promote local content, in line with the local culture, and in the local language. Press freedom and pluralism of content can and must go together in our information society.

The terms "information society", "digital era", or the "information age" have all been used to describe this age. Whatever term we use, the society we build must be open and pluralistic -- one in which all people, in all countries, have access to information and knowledge. This is the primary goal of the World Summit on the Information Society, the first phase of which will take place this December in Geneva.

The Summit will serve as a unique platform to galvanize the international community -- working in concert with governments, private business and civil society -- to narrow the "digital divide" and lay the foundations of a truly inclusive global information society. It is an opportunity that must not be missed.

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