The United Nations welcomed Sierra Leone’s announcement on World Press Freedom Day that it will relinquish control of its state-run broadcaster, in a move to support the creation of a new, independently-governed public broadcasting corporation.
Sierra Leone’s Minister of Information and Communications, Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, announced the move Sunday at a ceremony held by the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Mission in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) in Freetown. He said a draft bill creating the new corporation would be sent to parliament for debate and approval in the coming weeks.
“We believe we have reached the stage of democratic development in our country where this is the right step to take,” Mr. Kargbo said.
The Secretary-General’s Executive Representative in Sierra Leone, Michael von der Schulenburg, welcomed the announcement and has pledged technical and material support from UNIPSIL to assist in the development of independent media. Such support is to include the eventual transfer of all assets of UN Radio, which is scheduled to close in 2009.
Also on Sunday, an international media conference in Doha, Qatar, adopted a declaration highlighting the importance of fostering communication and cooperation among news organizations around the world.
The adoption of the “Doha Declaration on the Potential of Media: Dialogue, Mutual Understanding and Reconciliation” concluded a two-day conference hosted by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Doha Center for Media Freedom in commemoration of World Press Freedom Day.
This year’s World Press Freedom Prize was awarded posthumously to the late Lasantha Wickrematunge, a prominent Sri Lankan journalist who was assassinated in January on his way to work.
UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, presenting the prize, said it “seeks to draw attention to the importance of press freedom and the danger media professionals face in many parts of the world.”
Eleven journalists worldwide have been killed this year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).