The Director-General (DG) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),Ms Irina Bokova,in March 2014 launched the new UNESCO Report on World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development, in Stockholm, Sweden.
The launch was held at the International Press Centre and moderated by Mr. Mats Djurberg, Secretary General of the Swedish National Commission for UNESCO. It held a roundtable discussion with Ms Helena Sancho from the Swedish International Development Agency, Mr. Jesper Bengtsson from the Swedish think tank Tiden, and Ms Ulla Carlosson, Professor and Director of Nordicom. It also listened to a speech made by the Swedish Minister for Democracy and EU-affairs, Ms Birgitta Ohlsson.
Ms Bokova thanked the Government of Sweden for the strength of its support to UNESCO in promoting and
protecting freedom of expression, including media and press freedom, and particularly in drafting the World Trends Report.
She said: “We are seeing positive trends for freedom of expression, which are a blessing for creativity, exchange and dialogue…At the same time, new threats are rising- from digital controls, censorship and blocking to physical threats against journalists – these undermine freedom of expression, a human right that is vital for the rule of law, for building inclusive, open knowledge societies.”
The UN Director-General did not fail to emphasize the importance of the World Trends Report for understanding the scale and nature of changes in freedom of expression and media development, as the basis for sharper public action to raise awareness, to strengthen the safety of journalists and end impunity, to build capacity in countries across the world and to support effective media development.
Ms Bokova opined that “At times of uncertainty, we must remain true to the values that we share, freedom of expression is essential to dignity, dialogue, democracy and sustainable development, and press freedom is flourishing in many ways, but it faces serious challenges, In this context, our message is clear – we must meet these challenges and we must continue pushing forward the frontiers for freedom of expression.”
Ms Ohlsson spoke about the importance of the safety of journalists stressing the need to promote freedom of expression in all circumstances, as the basis for the rule of law and stronger democracy. The Minister underlined the deep commitment of the Swedish Government to defending freedom of expression, and the importance of UNESCO’s leadership in this respect.
She declared: “Freedom of expression is the base for all other rights.” She further highlighted the vital importance of gender equality. In this light, the Minister welcomed the Report and looked forward to taking this further.
The UNESCO Report on World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development is available in PDF format at http://bit.ly/1jrcYmU