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ARTICLE 19 reaffirms the need to protect freedom of expression on World Press Freedom Day

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 2 May 2009 - As the global media and human rights communities mark the event of World Press Freedom Day, ARTICLE 19 calls attention to the ongoing need to ensure that freedom of expression is safeguarded and enhanced in all parts of the world.

The theme for UNESCO World Press Freedom Day 2009 is "Fostering Dialogue". In line with this topic, ARTICLE 19 continues to fulfil its core mandate by working closely with partners from the media and civil society to promote the right to freedom of expression in various parts of the world.

Camden Principles

ARTICLE 19 launched the Camden Principles on Freedom of Expression and Equality, a ground-breaking document that will guide legislators, policy-makers and civil society in balancing the mutually enforcing rights to freedom of expression and equality. A key principle of the document is to "promote dialogue among different communities" and addresses a number of global requirements for media diversity.

Africa

In April, ARTICLE 19 East Africa co-ordinated a gathering of media professionals, human rights defenders, academic and community representatives in Kenya which developed the Machakos Declaration on Freedom of Expression. This document affirms the fundamental principles of free expression enshrined in international human rights frameworks and recognises that freedom of expression is crucial for democratic reform, good governance and poverty reduction.

This comes at an important time for Kenya, where an uneasy coalition government is in office after the post-election violence in 2007. The Machakos meeting recognised that not all elements of the media had reported the elections and subsequent violence objectively; indeed some segments had worsened the situation through biased and unprofessional reporting. It is critical for the democratic future of Kenya that the media is given the freedom to report independently on societal events, and that it also acts responsibly to provide balanced and fair reporting.

There is an ongoing constitutional review process and ARTICLE 19 is actively working with partners to ensure reform of existing freedom of information legislation and broadcasting legislation, in order to provide a more enabling framework for the media.

Asia

ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh will launch a new handbook on the Right to Information, in question-and-answer format, for the media and legal sectors in Bangladesh on World Press Freedom Day.

This forms part of the organisation's continued work in this country to promote freedom of information and strengthen the ability of the media to report on issues of importance.

At the event on Sunday 3 May, ARTICLE 19 will also present awards to a group of women journalists, drawn from grassroots and community media structures, who have recently undergone a fellowship programme through ARTICLE 19. This programme is helping to promote diversity in the media and empower locally-based journalists to better report stories within their own communities and in the national press.

Europe

ARTICLE 19 is using the launch of the European Union's Eastern Partnership on 7 May to cast a spotlight on continued human rights abuses, including the intimidation and censorship of dissenting voices, and repression of the media. The Eastern Partnership is an initiative promoting good governance, free trade and economic development between the EU and six countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. One of the stated shared values of the Eastern Partnership is a commitment to human rights and the rule of law. ARTICLE 19 has been documenting cases of abuse, harassment and violence against media workers and also calls for legal reform of media and broadcasting legislation to protect freedom of expression in each of these countries.

Latin America

Throughout 2009 ARTICLE 19 Mexico is running a campaign to protect journalists titled "What you don't know can hurt you". Part of the campaign will this year include an international seminar bringing together different stakeholders to discuss how best to document and raise alerts on abuses against journalists and to publish a "Protocol to Monitor, Document and Follow up on Aggressions against Journalists" for Mexico. A website together with television and radio spots are also being launched to widen understanding of the situation and identify the best way to support a free press.

Middle East

From 5-7 May, ARTICLE 19 will host a training programme in Yemen on international human rights law and international best practice standards on both the right to freedom of expression and the right to information. The training course will aim to provide a group of 25-30 key stakeholders, in particular journalists and other media professionals and NGO activists, with an understanding of the main implications of the right to freedom of expression and the right to information as protected under international law. The initiative aims to empower participants with the ability to advocate for and exercise their own right to freedom of expression in the Yemeni context.

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