United Nation officials stressed last week that freedom of expression remains as important as ever in this digital age, as it serves as a basis for democracy and human dignity everywhere. The UN is undertaking a series of events and training programmes across the world to pick up on this theme of freedom of expression within the press and to coincide with this year's theme - “21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers.”
In Washington, D.C., Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), will award the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize in absentia to the Iranian journalist Ahmad Zeidabadi, who is currently imprisoned in his home country. Ms. Bokova, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN High Commissioner for
Human Rights Navi Pillay issued a joint statement to mark the Day in which they noted
that new media and technologies offer the public “unprecedented opportunities” for expression.
“More and more people are able to share information and exchange views, within and across national borders,” the trio said. “This is a blessing for creativity, for healthy societies, for including everyone in new forms of dialogue.”
But the message warned that new threats are arising alongside the technology, noting that “measures to block, filter and censor information emerge every day.”
The Internet must be a truly global resource to which everyone has access and where all voices can be heard, the officials stressed.
“This calls for action to defend the integrity and safety of online reporters. All principles of freedom of expression must be brought to the online world. And they must be protected. Over the last decade, more than 500 journalists lost their lives in the pursuit of their profession. Sixty killings were reported worldwide in 2010 alone. Every week brings more reports of journalists and bloggers suffering from intimidation and violence.”