In December of 1993, the UN General Assembly proclaimed May 3rd as World Press Freedom Day, following the recommendation of UNESCO’s General Conference. Since then, the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek is celebrated worldwide as World Press Freedom Day.
It provides an opportunity to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, and assess the state of press freedom throughout the world. It is also an opportunity to pay tribute to journalists who lost their lives in the line of duty.
“On World Press Freedom Day 2018, I call on governments to strengthen press freedom, and to protect journalists. Promoting a free press is standing up for our right to truth.” — António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General
The 2018 theme is Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law. It highlights the importance of an enabling legal environment for the press, and more specifically, the role of an independent judiciary to ensure legal guarantees for press freedom, and the prosecution of crimes against journalists. The theme also hopes to draw attention to legislative gaps with regard to freedom of expression and information online, and the risks of regulating online speech.
Additionally, the theme addresses the role of the media in sustainable development, especially as a watchdog during elections. Within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 17 goals to transform our world, the contribution of journalists and media workers is an integral part of the goal to develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels.
UNESCO marks World Press Freedom Day by granting the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize to a deserving individual, organization or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the defence and/or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world. Guillermo Cano was a Colombian journalist who was assassinated in front of the offices of his newspaper, El Espectador in Bogotá, because his writing had incited Colombia’s powerful drug barons.
The 2018 recipient is Mahmoud Abu Zeid, the Egyptian photojournalist facing the death penalty for taking photos at the Rabaa massacre August 14, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt. Also known as Shawkan, he was imprisoned during the post-coup unrest by the Egyptian government in 2013. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions has qualified his arrest and detention as, “arbitrary and contrary to the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
“The choice of Mahmoud Abu Zeid pays tribute to his courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression,” said Maria Ressa, President of the independent international jury of media professionals that selected Shawkan.
The Prize will be awarded in Ghana Accra, Ghana today.
God bless Mahmoud Abu Zeid. He is the personification of World Press Freedom Day.