The day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) General Conference. Since then, May 3 is celebrated worldwide as World Press Freedom Day.
However in Pakistan, the media professionals are paying a heavy price in blood in their strive to keep Pakistani citizens informed in an increasingly polarized and violence-prone country.
The World Press Freedom Day is an opportunity to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom; assess the state of press freedom throughout the world; defend the media from attacks on their independence; pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
Theme for 2015
“Let Journalism Thrive! Towards better reporting, gender equality and media safety in the digital age”, is the theme set for this year by the United Nations and UNESCO during commemoration ceremony held in New York.
Speaking on the occasion, UN Under-Secretary-General for Public Information, Cristina Gallach, said the event “gives us an opportunity to address two vital topics, gender equality and the safety of journalists, in the digital age, where protection from surveillance will become increasingly important.”
In a joint message on the Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, said: “For peace to be lasting and development to be sustainable, human rights must be respected.”
A non-governmental organization, Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), declared year 2014 as one of the most difficult years for Pakistan media because of threats from militant groups, law enforcement agencies, and political parties, the Pakistani media remained bitterly divided.
The report said around eight media personnel, including three journalists, were killed during the year while at least 35 media practitioners were injured during 2014.
The World Press Freedom Index 2015 issued by the Reporters without Borders has ranked Pakistan 159 out in 180 countries in the list.
The report published by International News Safety Institute (INSI) stated that Journalism has never been more dangerous and journalists have never felt more unsafe.
It revealed that several militant groups using new technologies to control the information battlefield and have declared war on journalists.
Despite the fact that technology helps journalists to easily transfer information, and in some situations is keeping them safer, but on the other side making them increasingly vulnerable to the powerful entities that seek to track and harm them.
Message from Obama
Two days before World Press Freedom Day, Obama praised the role of journalists who “give all of us, as citizens, the chance to know the truth about our countries, ourselves, our governments.
Obama’s comments come two days after a report by the human rights group Freedom House said that press freedom around the world has plummeted to the worst level in a decade, with the United States and China among the countries tightening the noose.
“Journalists are harassed, sometimes even killed. Independent outlets are shut down. Dissent is silenced. And freedom of expression is stifled.”
“That makes us better. It makes us stronger. It gives voice to the voiceless, exposes injustice, and holds leaders like me accountable.”