UNESCO - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

05/06/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/07/2021 03:00

Windhoek+30 Declaration calls for affirming information is a public good

The overall theme of World Press Freedom Day, 'Information as a Public Good ', was discussed in a talk-show on 2 May following the official inauguration by UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Namibia, Saara Nadjila Kuugongelwa-Amadhila. The session featured an exclusive intervention by the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Joseph Stiglitz as well as other prominent speakers. Masters of ceremonies and Conference's champions Gwen Lister, founder of the newspaper 'The Namibian' and co-chair in the 1991 Windhoek seminar, and Toivo Ndjebela, Editor-in-Chief of the Namibian Sun, guided attendees and viewers through the five-day event.

Inputs for the preparation of the global conference and its outcome were gathered in a consultative process, involving regional consultations as well as thematic consultations with media representatives, unions, specialized NGOs, think tanks, and relevant networks such as the CSO Coalition on Safety of Journalists, the Media Freedom Coalition, the Freedom Online Coalition, and the Dynamic Coalition on the Sustainability of Journalism and News Media.

On 2 May, the 2021 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano award was delivered to Maria Ressa, Filipino journalist and CEO of Rappler. Ressa has been victim of online attacks and targeted campaigns as well as facing charges of cyber-libel linked to her investigative reporting. During the award ceremony from Windhoek, journalists Marilu Mastrogiovanni and David Dembele, members of the independent award jury who motivated her selection, praised Ressa's 'unerring fight for freedom of expression' and her being 'an example for many journalists in the Philippines and around the world'.

Ressa also participated in a panel to launch the trailblazing discussion paper 'The Chilling: Global trends in online violence against women journalists' on 30 April. The UNESCO study, carried out by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) presents an unprecedentedly wide data set and reveals that social media is increasingly weaponized to use gendered online abuse in order to chill critical reporting and cut public trust in journalism. Maria Ressa referred to the need to hold online platforms to account: 'The impunity must stop. If it doesn't, you will not have facts. The platforms that deliver the news are biased against facts, and they're biased against journalists, and make women journalists far more vulnerable than we've ever been.'

During the conference, UNESCO released a new issue brief titled Letting the Sun Shine In: Transparency and Accountability in the Digital Age, on transparency and accountability in the digital age, which includes a selection of high-level principles to enhance the transparency of internet platform companies. It presents enhancing transparency as a third way between state overregulation of content, which has led to disproportionate restrictions on human rights, and a laissez-faire approach that has failed to effectively address problematic content such as hate speech and disinformation.

At the center of the plenary on media viability the need of additional support to strengthen their viability was discussed, including through direct taxation to fund media enterprises; revenue sharing mechanisms to ensure media are adequately compensated for third party use of their content; increasing development assistance to media; collaboration among media; and support for non-profit media. On this matter, UNESCO is also carrying on a study on media viability, in partnership with WAN-IFRA, and a policy brief part of the upcoming UNESCO's report World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development.

Concrete and innovative initiatives to support media renaissance were raised inter alia during different sessions such as: Developing Concrete Recommendations for the Sustainability of Journalism organized by the Forum on Information and Democracy; the discussion about the International Fund on Public Interest Media during the event by UN Verified on 'How do we prevent the pandemic from becoming a media extinction event'; as well as the launch of the BBC Media Action/PRIMED's working paper on public subsidy to media.

The Conference also hosted 6 Regional Forums that highlighted the aftermath of the declarations and movements inspired by the 1991 Windhoek Declaration. All Conference's sessions, video messages and exhibitions are accessible on the Conference's platform until the end of May 2021 (Register here to re-watch all sessions(link is external)). Conference sessions will also be available on UNESCO's YouTube channel

Over fifty events took place around the world in more than thirty countries to mark the World Press Freedom Day celebration, and UNESCO launched the global campaign #QuestionsThatMatter(link is external), to recognize the reliable and accurate information that journalists provide to us.