World Press Freedom Day History

Reader Contributing Staff 

World Press Freedom Day acts as a reminder of the importance of a free press in a functioning and safe society and serves to commemorate the journalists who have lost their lives in support of free press. In a time when media coverage is prone to fear-mongering and sensationalism, taking the time to appreciate and seek out journalism with integrity has never been more important. Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right as stated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

World Press Freedom Day was first organized by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993 in an effort to reflect upon press freedom in the world. The day marks the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek, which is a statement of press freedom principles put together by African journalists in 1991 to promote an independent and pluralistic African press. This holiday is celebrated on May 3.

Why is World Press Freedom 
Day celebrated?

About World Press Freedom Day. Every year, May 3rd is a date which celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom; to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.

World Press Freedom 
Day Facts & Quotes

• Each World Press Freedom Day has a theme and a host city. 2017’s host city is Indonesia, Jakarta and the theme is Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies. The theme was chosen as it coincides with the 2030 Development Agenda goal to: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

• UNESCO confers the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize to a deserving individual, organization or institution in the field. The prize is named after Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian journalist who was assassinated outside his newspaper in 1986 having offended powerful drug lords.

• According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” – Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

• “Freedom of the Press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose ”. – George Orwell, writer.

• “Quality journalism enables citizens to make informed decisions about their society’s development. It also works to expose injustice, corruption, and the abuse of power. For this, journalism must be able to thrive, in an enabling environment in which they can work independently and without undue interference and in conditions of safety.” – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

In 2016, the countries where press was the most free were Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and New Zealand, followed by Costa Rica, Switzerland, Sweden, Ireland and Jamaica. The country with the least degree of press freedom was Eritrea, followed by North Korea, Turkmenistan, Syria, China, Vietnam and Sudan.