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Ban calls for free media, including on the Internet, in message to Asian forum

Ban calls for free media, including on the Internet, in message to Asian forum

Access to free media is a fundamental human right, yet in many countries in Asia and elsewhere journalists risk intimidation, detention and even their lives, simply for doing their jobs, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a regional forum today in Beijing.

“Free speech and media freedom are an inseparable part of the United Nations’ mission for peace, human development and a better world,” Mr. Ban said in a message to the Asia Media Summit, delivered on his behalf by Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Kiyo Akasaka.

“The United Nations stands against the silencing of the media and with those who work to keep the powerful accountable in every country,” he added, noting that murdering journalists is simply the most brutal way of intimidating and silencing the media.

He cited the killing of 77 journalists last year. “These were not high-profile war correspondents who lost their lives in the heat of battle,” he said. “Most of them worked for small, local publications in peacetime. They were murdered for attempting to expose wrongdoing or corruption. Many of these cases remain unsolved.”

Beyond murder, the arsenal of repressive weapons range from the denial of broadcasting rights to independent television and radio channels, to the imposition of high taxes on newsprint so that only the wealthy are able to buy newspapers, to censoring Internet use and jailing citizen journalists. “In every case, it is a denial of fundamental human rights, and an obstacle to social and economic development,” Mr. Ban declared.

He also cited the “lightning speed” with which the media landscape in Asia is moving. “The region is experiencing a media explosion, both in traditional print and broadcasting, and in digital media and the Internet,” he said.

“This media revolution is going to have a great impact on societies – politically, socially and culturally. It is impossible to predict its long-term effects. But we can be sure of one thing. Free, independent media will always be a cornerstone of democracy, transparency, accountability, development and respect for human rights.”