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World Press Freedom Day: Everything you need to know


IFEX's guide to World Press Freedom Day, one of the most important days honouring free expression

What is World Press Freedom Day?

World Press Freedom Day, celebrated yearly on 3 May, is a day to recognise the fundamental human right of press freedom, weigh the state of press freedom around the world, and pay tribute to the journalists, editors and publishers who have lost their lives for doing their job.

How did it come about?

The UN General Assembly proclaimed 3 May World Press Freedom Day in 1993 following a recommendation adopted at UNESCO's General Conference in 1991.

The day was inspired by the Windhoek Declaration, which was adopted in 1991 at a UNESCO seminar in Windhoek, Namibia. The statement promotes an independent and pluralistic press in Africa in the face of years of political violence and authoritarianism on the continent.

The Windhoek Declaration has been viewed as widely influential as the first in a series of such declarations around the world. The date of the declaration's adoption, 3 May, was subsequently declared as World Press Freedom Day.

What's IFEX doing?

We have created a special World Press Freedom Day webpage—available in English, French, Spanish and Arabic—showcasing the voices and campaigns of our members around the world. Check out our story map highlighting recent trends in press freedom—both disturbing and inspiring—and take action for the release of imprisoned Syrian journalist and human rights activist Mazen Darwish.

I hear there's a prize!

The UNESCO/Guillermo Cano award is conferred every year on World Press Freedom Day on an individual or group that defends and promotes free expression, often at great personal risk. Created in 1997, the US$25,000 prize is awarded on the recommendation of an independent jury of 12 news professionals. Regional and international non-governmental organisations working for press freedom - cue IFEX members - and UNESCO member states may submit nominations.

The 2015 award winner is imprisoned Syrian journalist and human rights activist Mazen Darwish. As president of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression, founded in 2004, Darwish has faced repeated detention, torture, harassment and travel bans as a result of his work. He has been detained by Syrian intelligence forces since 2012, when he was arrested along with two other colleagues from the Centre. In February 2013, the three were charged under the country's anti-terror law with “publicizing terrorist acts”, but their trial has faced multiple delays.

The UNESCO/Guillermo Cano prize is named in honour of Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian journalist who was murdered in front of his office in 1986 after denouncing drug barons in his country.

Where is the official UNESCO event this year?

UNESCO and the government of Latvia will co-host the World Press Freedom Day conference in Riga, Latvia, from 2-4 May 2015. The UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize Ceremony will be held at the National Library in Riga on 3 May.

The theme this year is Let Journalism Thrive! Towards Better Reporting, Gender Equality, & Media Safety in the Digital Age.

More on UNESCO's World Press Freedom Day 2015, as well as an archive of official events and themes in previous years, is available here.

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