In joint message, top UN officials reaffirm importance of press freedom

1 May 2002

With journalists facing increasing danger as they cover conflicts around the world, top UN officials have used the occasion of World Press Freedom Day to decry acts of violence against media representatives and reaffirm the vital importance of press freedom for human progress.

With journalists facing increasing danger as they cover conflicts around the world, top UN officials have used the occasion of World Press Freedom Day to decry acts of violence against media representatives and reaffirm the vital importance of press freedom for human progress.

"In each of the past two years, more than 50 journalists have been killed while covering violent conflicts," Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Koïchiro Matsuura, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a joint message released in advance of the Day, which is traditionally marked on 3 May. This year's observance is devoted to the question of terrorism and media freedom.

The UN officials stressed that, increasingly, such deaths were not the result of war's accidents, "but the outcome of a deliberate targeting of journalists by those seeking to prevent media exposure of their criminal, corrupt or terrorist activities."

"Terrorism all too often includes violent attacks on reporters and publishers, including assassinations, abductions, torture and bombings of media offices," they said, adding that journalists have human rights like anyone else. "Press freedom is an indispensable dimension of that wider freedom of expression that is each person's birthright and one of the foundations for human progress."

In a separate message, the President of the UN General Assembly, Han Seung-soo of the Republic of Korea, also underscored the dangers faced by journalists in zones of conflict or crisis, and urged "State and non-State actors alike to take all measures possible to make the media profession a less dangerous one."

The UN will observe World Press Freedom Day in New York tomorrow with a panel discussion on such issues as national and international security vs. freedom of the press, televised coverage of terrorism trials, and the safety of journalists. Among those slated to participate are high-level UN officials and correspondents from Al-Jazeera, Court TV, CNN, The New York Times and The Times of India. There will also be a screening of a videotaped interview with Mariane Pearl, the widow of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

 

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