World Press Freedom Day 2017 – Celebrating critical minds at critical times -The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) joins the rest of the world today, May 3rd, to mark World Press Freedom Day.
Every year, May 3 is celebrated and commemorated as World Press Freedom Day – a date that marks the promotion of press freedom and pays tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the pursuit of information. World Press Freedom Day 2017 calls upon one-and-all to stay critical and defend free, independent and quality journalism in order to have better, more peaceful and inclusive societies.
SLAJ is celebrating and commemorating with a number of events including a Press Freedom Symposium on May 3, 2017 at 9:00 a.m. at the Harry Yansaneh Memorial Hall at SLAJ at 56 Campbell Street, Freetown. The Symposium will bring together civil society, government, lawyers and the press to discuss and debate burning issues affecting the media and how the media can advance good governance. The SLAJ Regional Executives will also observe the day with similar activities in their respective localities.
May 3rd also acts as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom, to review and repeal inappropriate media laws and uphold International and Constitutional provisions for the media. It serves as an occasion to inform citizens of violations of press freedom - a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered. And, it is also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics.
This is a day celebrated and commemorated by journalists, artists, commentators, writers, poets, bloggers, painters and governments around the world. Those who research, those who create and those who disseminate are drivers of change – both positive and negative. Quality journalism contributes to building societies that are more just, peaceful and inclusive. And, critical audiences will not easily fall victim to misinformation and manipulation, thanks to responsible, professional journalism.
Unfortunately, Sierra Leone’s press freedom rankings continue to fall, according to Freedom House, Reporters without Borders, Amnesty International and others. But, Sierra Leone is not alone. According to Freedom House, only 13% of the world’s population enjoys a free press—that is, a media environment where coverage of political news is robust, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion into media affairs is minimal, and the press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures.
The 2016 UNESCO Director General’s report on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity, says, in the last decade, 827 journalists and media workers have been killed. Even more alarming is the fact that only 8% of these cases have been resolved. Impunity for crimes committed against journalists and media professionals is a major obstacle to ensuring the safety of journalists, freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
World Press Freedom Day, 2017, is focused on why it is vital to strengthen free and quality journalism to enable the media to effectively contribute to the achievement of democracy, good governance, inclusive societies, informed citizens and the Sustainable Development Goals.
SLAJ wants to remind one-and-all:
• Original, analytical and well-researched journalism is needed today more than ever before.
• Quality journalism can thrive only in an environment that is enabling towards free, independent and pluralistic media. When these conditions are in place, the media have enormous potential to advance good governance, democracy and inclusive societies.
• Only a legal framework that safeguards press freedom, freedom of information and freedom of expression allows for a free, independent and quality media sector to emerge and grow.
• Professional media that promote discussion, reflects a diversity of opinion and perspectives should be encouraged thus promoting good governance, democratic principles and an informed electorate.
• Communication and information are the drivers of positive change and journalists are the living embodiment of these freedoms.
The World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a Recommendation adopted at the 26th Session of UNESCO's General Conference in 1991. This in turn was a response to a call by African journalists who in 1991 produced the landmark Windhoek Declaration on media pluralism and independence.