World Press Freedom Day 2014: advancing the development agenda

2 May, 2014

democracy, fragile states, freedom of expression, human rights, internet freedom, legislation, media, peaceful protest, statebuilding,

World Press Freedom day is an opportunity to celebrate the fundamental principles of freedom of the press, raise awareness around violations of press freedom and encourage steps which work towards press freedom across the world.

World Press Freedom Day 2014 on 3rd May draws the discussion into the realm of development, focusing on the role of media in the post-2015 development agenda, the sustainability of journalism and the safety of journalists.

In the words of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova:

“Journalism provides a platform for informed discussion across a wide range of development issues – from environmental challenges and scientific progress to gender equality, youth engagement and peacebuilding. Only when journalists are at liberty to monitor, investigate and criticize policies and actions can good governance exist.”

 

Media is increasingly recognised as an integral component in development efforts and The High Level Panel of Eminent Persons Report has proposed, as one of its twelve new universal goals, that ‘people enjoy freedom of speech, association, peaceful protest and access to independent media and information’.

Building on this notable convergence of independent media and the development agenda, Wilton Park held a conference addressing Media and fragile statesin October 2013. Whilst the role of media has not featured strongly in policy discussions on fragile states, access to independent media and information is critical in promoting government accountability and fostering political cohesion in fragile states. The event asked whether access to free media exacerbates divides and the dangers of conflict, or if freedom of expression should apply in fragile states just as it does elsewhere as a positive force for democratic change. Whilst the spread of social media and mobile technologies has helped open up the public sphere in fragile states, the world of media and its practitioners needs to be linked up with development efforts to create a comprehensive approach to bring progress in fragile nations.

With the rushing evolution of the internet and communication technologies, cooperation between government, civil society and private sector stakeholders is important when decisions about the role and regulation of the internet are made. Freedom of expression online: identifying and addressing challenges and developing a shared vision and a working partnership looked at freedom of expression online in the context of development, security, intellectual property and economic opportunities. It highlighted the lack of consistency in government approaches to the internet across the world and the subsequent need for a holistic approach to establish how human rights apply to the internet, norms of behaviour online, what effective internet governance looks like, who should act as regulator and, critically, to breach the digital divide and grant access to the 5 billion people who don’t yet have access.

Achieving freedom of the press remains a challenge and journalists and bloggers are arrested and killed every year, but free, pluralistic media can contribute to transparency, political participation, accountability and good governance; they must remain a priority in empowering communities and building democracy.

Further information

Conference: Peaceful protest: a cornerstone of democracy – how to address the challenges?

Conference: Media and fragile states

Conference: Freedom of expression online: identifying and addressing challenges and developing a shared vision and a working partnership

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