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World Press Freedom Day takes place on 3 May each year. The day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993 following a recommendation by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The recommendation was made in response to a call by African journalists who in 1991 had produced the Windhoek Declaration on media pluralism and independence.  The day aims to: 

  • celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom;
  • evaluate press freedom around the world;
  • defend the media from attacks on their independence; and
  • pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.

UNESCO has argued that the day serves as a reminder that “in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered”. It is also intended to act as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom and as an opportunity for media professionals to reflect on issues of press freedom and professional ethics.

In 2019, World Press Freedom Day is being jointly organised by UNESCO, the African Union Commission and the Government of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia. The day will take place under the theme ‘Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation’, which aims to highlight the current challenges faced by the media in elections, along with the media’s potential in supporting peace and reconciliation processes.

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