World Press Freedom Day, observed each year on May 3 around the globe, including in the Philippines, celebrates press freedom as a basic human right of every individual and remembers the journalists who perished in exercise of their profession. The 21st World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2014 is organized by the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, with the theme, “Media Freedom for a Better Future: Shaping the Post-2015 Development Agenda,” that focuses on three inter-related themes: Media’s importance in development, safety of journalists and the rule of law, and sustainability and integrity of journalism.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will end in 2015 and this year’s Press Freedom Day celebration will contribute to the crafting of development goals after 2015. Noteworthy among the goals are ensuring good governance and effective institutions, and in which freedom of speech and media openness, transparency, and access to information are highlighted. Social media plays a vital part in ensuring rights-based development, especially enabling wider exercise of freedom of expression and of the press.
The day reminds by governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined in Article 19 of 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.”
The Philippines was chosen to host the first World Press Freedom Day Celebration in Asia Pacific in 2002. Philippine media contributed much to success of the People Power Revolution in 1986 which inspired similar peaceful movements in other parts of the world. Serving as vanguards of Philippine press freedom are major media organizations National Press Club, Philippine Press Institute, and Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas.
Each year since 1997, the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize has been awarded to honor the work of an individual or an organization defending or promoting freedom of expression, especially if it puts a person’s life at risk.The award is named after a journalist murdered in 1986.
World Press Freedom Day was established by the United Nations in December, 1993, after the seminar on Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press in Namibia in 1991 and led to adoption of the Windhoek Declaration on May 3, 1993. The Windhoek Declaration called for the establishment and fostering of an independent, pluralistic and free press. It underscored the need for a free press to keep the democratic ideals alive in a nation.