UN mourns passing of US television anchorman committed to press freedom

20 July 2009
Walter Cronkite

The head of the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) today paid tribute to the United States journalist Walter Cronkite, best renowned for his work as a television anchorman, who has died aged 92.

“Mr. Cronkite was a singular voice in American life for many years and showed an admirable dedication to his craft as a chronicler of news large and small,” Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, said.

After he retired from his role as a television anchorman in 1981, Mr. Cronkite helped launch the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a non-governmental organization (NGO) devoted to press freedom worldwide, and served as its honorary co-chairman.

“Both in his own work as a journalist, and later with the CPJ, Mr. Cronkite was an example to others,” Mr. Akasaka said. “Freedom of the press is intrinsic to democracy and good governance across the world, and he was tireless in his efforts to ensure that everyone could enjoy it.”

Mr. Cronkite moderated a nationally broadcast “town hall” meeting addressed by then Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2001, in the wake of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

As Mr. Akasaka noted, “with a life spanning decades of key developments on the global stage, Mr. Cronkite was a towering figure in the media world – he carved out a reputation for telling the news as it is and inspired the best in journalistic traditions.”

The UN annually commemorates World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, calling on Member States to uphold press freedoms and support the work of independent media. Marking that occasion earlier this year, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that journalists should be able to do their jobs “free of intimidation and harassment” and reminded that a free press contributed to democracy and stability.


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