Press Releases

3 May 2005

Press Freedom Central to Enlarging Freedom for All, Says Secretary-General in Message on World Day

NEW YORK, 2 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message on World Press Freedom Day observed on 3 May:

Journalists work on the front-lines of history, unravelling the tangle of events, giving them shape and giving us a narrative sense of our lives.  Their tools are words and images; their credo is free expression; and their efforts empower all of us, individuals and societies alike.

Yet for doing this indispensable work, many journalists are persecuted, attacked, imprisoned and murdered.  According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 56 journalists were killed in the line of duty in 2004.  Another 19 remain missing and are feared to be dead, and some 124 were imprisoned.

On World Press Freedom Day, therefore, we pay tribute to those who have fallen victim to the perils of their calling.  We salute the courage and dedication of journalists struggling against risk and outright brutality to exercise their right to seek and tell the truth.  And we remind Governments especially that the right to “seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media” is enshrined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Censorship, the suppression of information, intimidation and interference are a denial of democracy, an obstacle to development, and a threat to the security of all.

World Press Freedom Day is also a day to reflect upon the role of the media in general.  In conjunction with this year’s observance, the United Nations Department of Public Information is convening the third seminar in its “Unlearning Intolerance” series (following earlier sessions on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia), which will focus on “hate media”.  In Rwanda, Côte d’Ivoire and other places, the world has seen fanatical groups fill radio airwaves and television screens with incendiary messages designed to incite.  The seminar will examine how the media can protect against fanning the flames of racism and xenophobia, and instead promote tolerance and understanding.

My recent report, “In Larger Freedom”, sets out wide-ranging proposals for reforming and revitalizing the multilateral system and the United Nations itself, and calls for bold decisions by world leaders at the Summit they will hold in New York in September.  Press freedom will continue to play a central role in enlarging freedom for all.  On this World Press Freedom Day, let us today reaffirm our commitment to this essential human right, and to pursue -- and collectively fulfil -- its realization.

* *** *