The Paris Declaration, adopted at the 2014 World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) Conference organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris, France has affirmed that access to information, independent media, press freedom, and free expression are essential to development.
In the Declaration, participants at the Conference also called on UNESCO to “consider support for, as reflected in the Africa Platform for Access to Information, the recognition of 28 September as World Right to Information Day.”
The conference which had over 300 participants from almost 90 countries took place on May 5 and 6, 2014, at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France. Seventy-five (75) speakers at the conference, made presentations around the theme “Media Freedom for a Better Future: Shaping the Post-2015 Development Agenda”.
Protection of journalists was especially emphasized in the Paris Declaration, as media workers in many countries continue to face threats and attacks. This was highlighted in UNESCO report on ‘World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development’. Among the striking data highlighted in the World Trends report only seven out of 430 cases of reported killings of media workers and journalists received justice. Delegates at the conference called for the establishment of legal frameworks that protect press freedom and freedom of expression.
The declaration called on relevant international organisations, as well as UN Member States, media, donors and civil society to advocate for media institutions across the range of public, private, community and social sectors as a foundation for free, pluralistic and independent media to play their full role in sustainable human development. They also requested that these stakeholders to carry out the following:
- Promote media sustainability with viable institutional foundations that can enable and protect the independence and diversity of journalism, along with professional standards, such as verification and public interest;
- Ensure that aid programmes take into account the importance of freedom of expression issues for all development efforts and that they support activities to promote freedom of expression, including the safety of journalists, as an essential element in media development;
- Prepare for the first commemoration of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists on November 2,2014, following the declaration of this day by the UN General Assembly in 2013;
- Undertake concerted efforts to enhance the role of knowledge in driving both the development of the media and a context-specific understanding of media’s role in development, including enhancing knowledge about the correlation between free, independent and pluralistic media and sustainable human rights-centered development.
Delegates at the conference called on the United Nations’ Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to fully integrate into the SDGs, the issues of freedom of expression, press freedom, independent media and the right of access to information, as proposed by the UN High Level Panel of Eminent Persons Report, as part of an overall good governance goal; to include these issues in the elaboration of post-2015 development targets and indicators; and to incorporate into the SDGs, universal access to ICT, and the importance of governments making available comprehensive, reliable, accurate and accessible information related to the development agenda.
Participants also called on UNESCO Member States to actively support the OWG to include the points raised in the paragraph above as well as the following:
- Reaffirm the importance of free expression and a free, independent and pluralistic media on all platforms to the achievement of sustainable and human-rights centered development;
- Reaffirm that this further requires putting in place a legal and institutional environment which can promote the safety of journalists, as outlined in the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity;
- Condemn the killings of journalists and ensure that such crimes are subject to independent, speedy and effective investigations and prosecutions, and to provide comprehensive and timely responses to the call by the UNESCO Director-General for information about investigations into killings of journalists in line with the decisions of the Organisation’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC);
- Put in place systems to promote greater transparency in ownership and financing of media, which are relevant issues to good governance;
- Ensure that development processes include, where needed, the transformation of state-owned media into public service media;
- Avoid the use of economic levers to undermine media independence and diversity;
- Support the provision of quality training and education for journalists, as well as broader media and information literacy, as part of long-term efforts to promote media sustainability and professionalization.
They called on journalists, professional and support associations, media outlets, internet intermediaries and social media practitioners to participate in the debate about freedom of expression and development; to support the UN Plan on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity with complementary or joint actions, and to enhance cooperation with each other.
The declaration ended with a call to UNESCO to be proactively involved in highlighting the importance of freedom of expression and media development in the post-2015 development agenda processes. It also urged UNESCO to carry out the following actions:
- Raise these issues in the context of ongoing consultations on crafting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as current negotiations concerning the World Summit on the Information Society after 2015;
- Promote the importance of free, independent and pluralistic media as the core of media development, and which are essential for good governance and the rule of law;
- Consider support for, as reflected in the Africa Platform for Access to Information, the recognition of 28 September as World Right to Information Day;
- Continue monitoring the safety of journalists and state of impunity, and submit reports about this on a regular basis;
- Expand the implement the UN Plan of Action to further interested countries, and to continue coordinating the implementation of the UN Plan of Action throughout the UN system;
- Sensitize governments to the importance of media freedom and an end to impunity for crimes against media practitioners as part of commitments to post-2015 development goals and programmes;
- Continue work to support media professionalism as well as media and information literacy.
- Reinforce the contribution of the Information for All Programme (IFAP) and the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) to the post-2015 development agenda.
- Make this Declaration widely available to Member States, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Open Working Group, and to other international and regional organisations.
The demands contained in the Paris Declaration were forwarded to the OWG of the United Nations, which will determine the final version of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Click here to view the full declaration.