3 May, World Press Freedom Day
In dozens of countries around the world, journalists, editors and publishers are murdered, assaulted, detained and harassed. Their publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down.
World Press Freedom Day, on 3 May, exists to recognise the sacrifices made in the struggle for freedom of the press and to put pressure on the numerous governments that continue to deny their citizens this basic human right.
The figures are eloquent: 28 journalists were murdered in 17 countries last year, bringing to more than 500 the deaths of journalists on duty in the past ten years; at least 117 journalists are currently imprisoned in 25 countries; no less than 119 nations do not have a fully free press.
The World Association of Newspapers has created this World Press Freedom Day web site to publicise 3 May and what it represents. Newspapers around the world have been encouraged to visit this site, download the materials, and publish as much as possible on 3 May.
This material includes an interview with essays by prominent dissidents and editors, case studies on jailed journalists, statistics about murders and other press freedom attacks, and camera-ready advertisements.
Newspapers are often reluctant to talk about the problems of their own profession. We hope they will make an exception on 3 May 1999 - not so much for the profession itself, but for their readers. The murder or jailing of a journalist, or the censorship of a publication, are, after all, first and foremost a direct violation of the basic right of the citizen, their reader, to receive information freely.
The 3 May date marks the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek, a statement of principles drawn up by African journalists in 1991 calling for a free, independent and pluralistic media on that continent and throughout the world. The Declaration affirms that a free press is essential to the existence of democracy and a fundamental human goal. The Declaration is a milestone in the struggle for a free press in all regions of the world.
At a time when human rights and democratic development hang in the balance in so many countries, no one can be complacent. 3 May is the day on which the media can remind governments and the public of the importance of freedom of the press and of how the global battle to attain it continues.
Organisations which have helped in the preparation of our World Press Freedom Day campaign or made donations to finance it include Publicis, the advertising agency, WAN Board members and associations in Canada, Germany, Portugal, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and USA, the Committee to Protect Journalists and other IFEX members, and Agence France-Presse.