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Tell It | Chapter Eight

Case Study: Successfully Advertising World Press Freedom Day


How the annual campaign for World Press Freedom Day spreads the word using advertising:

  • By providing media and schools with materials—articles, interviews, photos, cartoons and advertisements—reminding the public of the importance of press freedom
  • By offering these turnkey materials—photos with captions explaining events, maps showing where journalists have been killed—free on the campaign website
  • By developing an annual theme and consistent visual identity for all campaign materials
  • By accepting pro-bono work from several organisations, and planning months in advance to produce the materials


The World Association of Newspapers and Newspaper Publishers (WAN-IFRA) organises an annual World Press Freedom Day initiative to draw attention to the importance of independent news. All over the globe, year after year, journalists, editors and publishers are murdered, assaulted, detained and harassed. Their publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down. World Press Freedom Day on 3 May recognises the sacrifices made in the struggle for freedom of the press, and puts pressure on governments that continue to deny their citizens this basic human right.

But newspapers are often reluctant to talk about the problems of their own profession. So, the campaign aims to provide media around the world with publishing materials to be used to remind governments and the public of the importance of press freedom and the global battle to attain it. Every year, WAN-IFRA produces articles, interviews and editorials, advertisements, photographs and cartoons illustrating attacks on freedom of the press, and infographics presenting maps of where journalists were killed, jailed and arrested. Newspapers can publish free of charge any editorial and advertising materials available on the website of the campaign:


The date marks the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek, a statement of principles drawn up by African journalists in 1991 calling for a free, independent and pluralistic media on that continent and throughout the world. The WAN-IFRA World Press Freedom Day website was originally created in 1999 to publicise what the day represents, and encourage media around the world to download materials and publish as much as possible on 3 May.


The campaign focuses on a particular element of press freedom each year. The topic, concept and structure of the campaign is discussed and finalised by the Press Freedom and Media Development team with input from other WAN-IFRA departments and the chief executive officer.


Year and Theme
Campaign Title

2005: Reviewing cultures of impunity

“Impunity - Getting Away With Murder”

2006: Imprisonment of journalists

“Don’t Lock up Information: Stop Jailing Journalists”

2007: Balancing security with individual freedoms

“Press Under Surveillance”

2008: Censorship of the press during the Olympics

“The Olympic Challenge: Free the Press in China!”

2009: Reporters facing harassment and violence

“Journalists in the Firing Line”

2010: Journalists killed, imprisoned and arrested

“Journalists in Exile”

2011: The importance of a free press for democracy, whether emerging or well established

“Silence Kills Democracy But a Free Press Talks”


Once the focus, topic and campaign title are decided, the structure and plan of the campaign are devised. The World Press Freedom Day campaign is a complex project consisting of different elements that require careful planning, management and coordination of in-house and external contributions.


All materials produced for the campaign must clearly communicate the headline message, explain its elements and give supporting evidence. For example, in 2009, campaign texts, photographs, cartoons and ads presented the story of many journalists who find themselves in the line of fire for their work. “Journalists in the Firing Line” provided insight into what was reported on, how it was done and at what price.


All elements of the campaign need to follow a unified and standardised visual and thematic identity. WAN-IFRA produces it in-house. Using the chosen design elements (font, colour, logos, etc), an IT team then designs a website which becomes the main platform for the campaign material. Every year the campaign and website have a different identity but the address remains the same:

For example, some of the visual identity elements for the 2009 campaign included the following:


Campaign elements produced and loaded onto the website include the following:

  • interviews, articles and an editorial to be published by newspapers on World Press Freedom Day;
  • cartoons that illustrate the theme;
  • public service ads that help raise awareness of the problem and allow newspapers to join the campaign by printing them;
  • infographics and interactive maps that present data on journalists killed, in prison or arrested.

Photographs that newspapers can use to illustrate the articles and other materials are provided by Agence France-Presse for the 3 May initiative. For example, the following photo and caption were among those provided for the 2009 campaign.

AFP photo / jay directo

Caption: Philippines, Manila: Nude members of a university fraternity make their way through a crowd of students during the traditional 'Oblation Run' at the University of the Philippines campus in suburban Manila on 15 December 2009 to protest against the recent massacre of journalists in the southern part of the country. The killings occurred on 23 November in the southern Philippine province of Maguindanao when 100 gunmen allegedly controlled by a local mayor abducted relatives and aides of a rival politician, plus a group of journalists, and shot them dead. Thirty of the 57 who were killed in the incident were journalists.

Protest letters and educational materials
In addition, protest letters are available as a tool to invite the worldwide public to mark World Press Freedom Day by sending protest letters to some of the world's most repressive governments. The campaign also offers education materials for use in schools as part of Newspapers in Education, and background material related to issues covered by the campaign.

Interactive maps
Every year, WAN-IFRA produces interactive maps that present data on journalists killed, in prison or arrested.

To see other materials available, go to and click on the Press Freedom navigation bar and select the World Press Freedom Day link.


Most of the materials provided on the website are produced in-house. The preparation and production process lasts from three to six months. In addition, several organisations and individuals provide WAN-IFRA with pro-bono or symbolically paid work or material. French cartoonist Michel Cambon creates up to 10 exquisite cartoons; advertising agencies produce pro-bono public service ads; press freedom organisations share data; and news agencies provide pro-bono photographs and footage. Also, WAN-IFRA member organisations and newspapers assist with distribution of materials, translation to different languages, and publication. Depending on the campaign theme, goals and objectives, materials are prepared in constant communication and cooperation with partners. Some partners are the same for years, but every year brings something new.

The campaign produces mostly print ads, and short video clips were produced for several years by media and film students from various schools.

WAN-IFRA is the global organisation for the world's newspapers and news publishers. The organisation represents 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries. The campaign does not have a media plan with newspapers, and it does not pay them to run the ads. The materials are provided for free and newspapers run them on their own initiative as their contribution to raising awareness about press freedom in the world.

All materials are produced and made available on the web site at least four weeks before the 3 May. The WAN-IFRA communication team then informs media, editors and public around the world through targeted emails and press releases, inviting them to use the materials and join the actions for World Press Freedom Day.


The biggest challenge in producing a campaign of this size and complexity, is creating a concept and message that carries the same meaning and communicates clearly in at least five languages and different cultural contexts.


The response from newspapers and media can be measured through the number of elements downloaded from the website, and through the number of articles and ads published. The site has become a primary spot for information and materials about World Press Freedom Day, with hundreds of newspapers republishing material every year. However, it has proven to be an impossible task to acquire information from all parts of the world where material has been published to carry out precise media monitoring. WAN-IFRA receives information and ad hoc feedback from member associations.

The response from the international public can be measured with the number of visitors to the website and the number of protest letters sent by visitors to repressive leaders and governments.

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