27 April 2004
Freedom, Independence of Media Essential for Building Better, Fairer World, Says Secretary-General in Message on World Day
NEW YORK, 27 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annans message on World Press Freedom Day, observed 3 May:
Information is, undoubtedly, a source of power. Those who have access to a free and independent media have more options, as well as the information they need to take better advantage of them. World Press Freedom Day is an important reminder of the contribution that journalists play in the information age, especially in the protection of human rights and the promotion of development.
This day is also one on which we should remember and pay tribute to journalists who have been killed in the line of duty, or whose reporting has led to their imprisonment and detention. The Committee to Protect Journalists continues to document sombre facts about the dangers and hostility faced by journalists. Thirty-six journalists were killed in 2003, and at least 17 have been killed in the first three months of 2004. Their deaths were the result of their efforts to bring us the facts, to deliver first-hand accounts of important events, to offer perspectives on the trends of our time -- in short, the essential work of daily journalism. Indeed, some were deliberately targeted because of what they were reporting or because of their affiliation with a news organization. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a further 136 journalists were in jail at the end of 2003 simply because of their profession.
Journalism, as a profession, has been resolute in the face of such danger. But the continuing threat to their personal and professional integrity must concern all of us who rely on the media as an agent of free expression and as an often very lonely means of rousing the worlds conscience.
Those issues and events need not be immediate or traumatic. While the war in Iraq has been a major recent preoccupation for press and politicians alike, battles of another kind -- against poverty, discrimination and disease, for example -- also warrant attention. Last year on World Press Freedom day, I asked why some issues and situations attract coverage, while others of seemingly equal importance fail to achieve critical mass. The question remains relevant today. Just as it should not take the collapse of a state for the international community to act, so it should not take a full-fledged crisis to attract the media spotlight. There are important stories to be told even in peacetime, about things that affect the normal everyday lives of children, women and men the world over.
On World Press Freedom Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to the freedom and independence of the media as an essential requirement for building a better and fairer world. And let us all pledge to do our utmost to ensure that journalists -- the men and women charged with helping us understand ourselves and our world -- are able to do their vital work in safety and without fear.
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