World Press Freedom Day

Imagine a world where every voice is heard. This is the spirit of World Press Freedom Day, celebrated on May 3rd. Established by the UN in 1993, it honours the vital role of independent journalism in democracy. As Nelson Mandela said, ‘A critical, independent, and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy’.

Ever heard of the word ‘pluralism’? Perhaps it can be an addition to the ever-growing vocabulary of the present times. It might be reckoned as a good thing too, because it has such a marvellous meaning. Although the word may not be familiar, the concept surely is.

The exact definition is ‘the existence of different types of people, who have different beliefs and opinions, within the same society’.

It is this expression of differing beliefs and opinions that is at the heart of the celebration of the 3rd of May, World Press Freedom Day, celebrating press freedom all across the globe. It was first proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 in acknowledgment of the landmark: Windhoek Declaration, produced by African journalists in 1991. According to Guy Berger, Director at UNESCO Communication and Information Sector: “Windhoek prompted the evolution of African standards appropriate to the ideal of journalism.”

This year marked the 31st celebration of this conference and it was held in Santiago, Chile, together with UNESCO. Each year on World Press Freedom Day, the importance of journalism is recognised as well as the vital role of independent media in a democratic society. Through this day, governments are reminded to respect their commitment to press freedom.

The UN also emphasised that the work of journalists is “crucial for promoting peace and democratic values worldwide.”

There are many ways in which press freedom supports and uplifts communities. For example, it encourages religious tolerance, empowers minorities, promotes access to information, and even builds bridges of understanding. In short, it promotes pluralism.

Having an understanding and respect for the differences in people’s beliefs, faith and culture forms the cornerstone of harmonious societies. Access to a variety of reliable resources enables informed decision-making and can be a platform for challenging stereotypes and prejudices. It can be the voice for social justice, equality and accountability. In the words of our beloved leader Nelson Mandela:

 “A critical, independent, and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy.”

To think that Africa was at the heart of making this all possible. We are thankful for those who paved the way before us. Viva World Press Freedom Day!