Media freedom is key to global sustainability


4 May 2015

Freedom of expression and press freedom are critical to the successful implementation of good governance and human rights around the world, United Nations officials declared as they inaugurated the 2015 edition of World Press Freedom Day.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Unesco Director-General Irina Bokova and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein observed in a joint message issued on Sunday that quality journalism “enables citizens to make informed decisions about their society’s development”, while also working “to expose injustice, corruption and the abuse of power”.

“For peace to be lasting and development to be sustainable, human rights must be respected. Everyone must be free to seek, receive and impart knowledge and information on all media, online and offline,” the joint statement said.

World Press Freedom Day, which was established by the UN General Assembly, is celebrated annually on 3 May.

The day is designated by Unesco as an opportunity to:

  • celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom;
  • assess the state of press freedom throughout the world;
  • defend the media from attacks on their independence; and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty;

This year’s theme – Let Journalism Thrive! – is a three-pronged message that advocates for quality journalism, the tackling of gender imbalances in media, and digital safety.

As part of the commemoration, the Media Development & Diversity Agency (MDDA), in partnership with the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism (IAJ) and Unesco, will be hosting host a seminar in Johannesburg on 5 May.

Guided by the international theme for 2015, the seminar will bring together government departments and entities, media practitioners and students, academia and civil society organisations to commemorate the day with a focus on the state of media freedom in South Africa.

Established by an Act of Parliament in 2002, the MDDA gives meaning and effect to the principles of press freedom through its commitment to a free and diverse media, with access to all.

The MDDA promotes the development of a free media in South Africa by building an environment where a diverse, vibrant and creative media flourishes and reflects the needs of all South Africans.

Specific objectives of the MDDA Act include encouraging ownership and control of and access to media by historically disadvantaged communities, as well as by the historically diminished indigenous language and cultural groups.

The agency also seeks to raise public awareness with regard to media development and diversity and encourages research regarding these crucial issues.