UNESCO Holds 2014 World Press Freedom Day International Conference in Paris


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is organizing an International Conference in conjunction with this year’s World Press Freedom Day in Paris, France, on May 5 and 6.

The theme chosen for this year’s World Press Freedom Day is “Media Freedom for a Better Future: Shaping the Post-2015 Development Agenda”.

According to UNESCO, “World Press Freedom Day 2014 comes at a time when the post-2015 Development Agenda is taking shape. While the debates about the succession of the Millennium Development Goals are being held, the World Press Freedom Day offers the opportunity to highlight free media’s central role in fortifying the post-2015 Development Agenda.”

World Press Freedom Day is a global celebration commemorated around the globe annually.

UNESCO says this year’s event provides a platform to contribute to the debate and to emphasize the importance of media in strengthening the post-2015 Development Agenda.

Turkish investigative journalist, Ahmet Şik
Turkish investigative journalist, Ahmet Şik

According to the United Nations agency in charge of communication, “Freedom of expression and of the media are both fundamental rights, as well as enablers of many goals relevant to the Development Agenda. As the High-Level Panel on the post-2015 Development Agenda noted: ‘freedom of speech helps drive development and has its own intrinsic value. It is both a means to an end and an end in itself.”

During this year’s conference, the interrelated issues of the role of free media in strengthening good governance and effective institutions, the safety of journalists as a prerequisite element of the rule of law, and the issue of reporting and monitoring the progress of the sustainable development goals, including access to information, will form part of the discussions.

Ahead of this year’s international conference, Turkish investigative journalist, AhmetŞik, will be awarded the UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize at an award ceremony which will take place at UNESCO’s Headquarters in Paris on Friday, May 2.

An international, independent jury of media professionals selected Şik as the winner of the 2014 World Press Freedom Prize.

Şik, 44, is an ardent defender of freedom of expression, and has devoted his career to denouncing corruption and human rights abuses. Between 1991 and 2011 he wrote for several Turkish newspapers, including Cumhurriyet, Evrensel, YeniYuzyl and, more recently, Radikal. He has also worked at Nokta magazine and Reuters News Agency as a photojournalist, and is a member of the Turkish Journalists’ Union.

The journalist had his first brush with the authorities in 2007, following a critical article in Nokta. On 3 March 2011, he was arrested and detained on charges of being linked to Ergenekon, an alleged terrorist organization.  He risks 15 years imprisonment if convicted.

The arrest was made just prior to the publication of his book entitled “The Imam’s Army”, which was seized and banned. The premises of the book’s publisher and Radikal, for whom Şik was working, were searched.

Released from detention in March 2012 while awaiting trial, AhmetŞik resumed his professional activities as an investigative journalist.  In mid-2013, he was injured while covering demonstrations in Istanbul’s Gezi Park.

The UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom prize was established in 1997 by UNESCO’s Executive Board and honours a person, organization or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the defense and/or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, especially when this has been achieved in the face of danger.

Candidates are proposed by  UNESCO’s Member States and regional or international organizations active in the field of journalism  and freedom of expression. The laureates are selected by a jury whose members are appointed by UNESCO’s Director-General for a period of three years, renewable once.

The jury that chose AhmetŞik includes: Florence Aubenas, journalist at Le Monde (France); GamalEid, founder and Executive Director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (Egypt); Rossana Fuentes-Berain, Editorial Vice President, Grupo Editorial Expansion (Mexico); YuliIsmartono, Deputy Editor-in-Chief Tempo (Indonesia); Laura Puertas Meyer, journalist Telemetro (Peru); MusikiluMojeed, journalist at the Premium Times (Nigeria); and Fatuma Noor, Features Writer, The Star (Kenya).

Others are RanaSabbagh, Executive Director of Arab reporters for Investigative Journalism (Jordan); Martin M. Šimecka, author and journalist, Editor-in-Chief of Respekt (Slovakia); Paul Steiger, Editor-in-Chief, CEO, ProPublica (USA); Ko-ko U, Chairman of the Yangon Media Group, publisher of the Yangon Times and former Secretary-General of the Journalists and Writers Association (Myanmar); LjiljanaZurovac, Executive Director of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Press Council (Bosnia and Herzegovina).

The $25,000 prize is awarded annually as part of the celebrations for World Press Freedom Day on May 3. It is funded by the Guillermo Cano Isaza Foundation and the HelsinginSanomat Foundation.