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UNESCO restates commitment to defend press freedom

by Haruna Gimba
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By Muhammad Amaan

United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) said the organisation remains firmly committed to defending freedom of expression as a fundamental human right and pillar of democracy.

Director General of UNESCO, Ms Audrey Azoulay made this known in her message on World Press Freedom Day 2024 marked with the theme, “A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the face of the Environmental Crisis.”

World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of UNESCO’s General Conference.

Azoulay said the 2024 theme highlighted the essential link between protecting freedom of expression – a global public good and preserving the planet.

She noted that it is also a call to action to protect journalism and free, pluralistic information.

She said that over the next few weeks, UNESCO would also unveil initiatives specifically dedicated to the environment.

This, she said, would provide environmental journalists with greater protection and strengthen media education and information on the major social networks.

Making reference to a recent UNESCO study, she said 70 per cent of environmental reporters had been victims of attacks, threats or pressure because of their work, while 44 environmental journalists had been killed in the last 15 years.

“As humanity faces up to this existential climate peril, we must remember on this World Day, that the climate challenge is also a journalistic and informational challenge.

“No effective climate action is possible without access to free and reliable scientific information,” Azoulay said.

According to him, the day is a call to make the major social networks more accountable, so that they can step up their moderation and regulation measures to counter disinformation and conspiracy around climate change.

“This is a call to equip all citizens with the critical thinking skills needed to confront disinformation.

“And also, a call to protect journalists and media professionals, artists and scientists, who are all too often the victims of harassment, violence and censorship.

“On May 3 this year, UNESCO would like to relay a simple message: protecting free and pluralistic information also means protecting our democracies and our planet.”

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