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U.S. Forum discusses challenges to Press Freedom

May 11, 2011, 1:42 PM

A three-day international conference was held recently in the United States of America as part of the celebrations marking “World Press Freedom” Day.
The Washington D.C. event, believed to be the largest World Press Freedom Day event ever, and hosted for the first time by the United States government, was held from 1st to 3rd May, 2011 on the theme “21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers”.

It was organised by UNESCO in collaboration with the U.S. State Department, International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX), the UN Foundation, the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) and the National Endowment for Democracy, among other civil society partners.

World Press Freedom Day was established by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December 1993, and is celebrated every year on May 3rd to raise awareness on the importance of freedom of the press.

It is also meant to remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression as enshrined under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as commemoration for journalists who are suffering restriction and imprisonment, or have made the ultimate sacrifice, for the sake of the free flow of information.

The event brought together professional and citizen journalists from around the world, press freedom organisations and UN agencies to assess the state of press freedom worldwide, and discuss solutions for addressing challenges.
The conference, with as many as 700 participants, focused on freedom of information and the basic right to access information, which is at the heart of media freedom - regarding the principle that governments, public bodies and other organisations have a duty to share the information they hold, based on the public’s right to be informed.

Besides, it called for support and inspiration, as the panels highlighted innovative media platforms that are democratizing how people can gain and share information – rights that now more than ever must be protected as new techniques for censorship emerge.

It also called for establishing maintaining and the fostering of an independent, pluralistic and free press, and emphasized the importance of a free press to the development and maintenance of democracy in a nation, and for economic development.
The celebration of World Press Freedom Day 2011 was punctuated with the award ceremony for World Press Freedom Prize of $25,000 to an Iranian journalist, Ahmad Zeidabadi, currently serving a six-year jail term.

The World Press Freedom Prize is the UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, established in 1997 and named after the slain Colombian journalist, Guillermo Cano.