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On 12 April 2023, the United Nations System Staff College (UNSSC) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will host a webinar under the theme 'Freedom of Expression as a Driver for All Other Human Rights'.
The international community now faces multiple crises; conflicts and violence, persistent socio-economic inequalities driving migration, environmental crises and challenges to the health and wellbeing of people all around the world, while disinformation and misinformation online and offline proliferate with serious impact on the institutions underpinning democracy, the rule of law and human rights.
Polarized political and societal discourse; erosion of trust; impositions of states of emergency and internet shutdowns; crackdown on critical voices and independent media; news desertification due to the collapse of traditional media business models; and tackling hate speech and online harms that disregard international standards, pose new threats to freedom of expression, and the fundamental role of human rights.
It is exactly to counter these critical situations and threats, that press freedom, safety of journalists and access to information take centre stage. The right to freedom of expression, enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is a prerequisite and a driver to the enjoyment of all other human rights.
A Day of Commemoration
In 1993, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 3 May as World Press Freedom Day. This proclamation marked the beginning of substantial progress towards enabling press freedom around the world.
Commemoration of the day acts as a reminder to governments and key stakeholders of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom; marking the day also enables reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics. Three decades have passed, with advancements in the respect for human rights and in related international frameworks. However, media freedom, safety of journalists and freedom of expression are increasingly under attack, which impacts the realization of other human rights.
This UNSSC / UNESCO webinar will focus on the theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day celebration: freedom of expression as a driver of all other human rights. This anniversary coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Vienna Conference and its Declaration and Programme of Action on Human Rights, which established important institutions safeguarding human rights, and with the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Participants in the webinar will hear from expert practitioners from across the UN system and civil society organizations about the place of freedom of expression within the overall human rights agenda. They will also discuss the particular role of journalists and the media in verifying and disseminating facts, creating spaces for ideas to be debated and for the voiceless to be heard, and rendering complex matters intelligible for the public at large.
The conversation will be relevant to UN staff working towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the proposals in Our Common Agenda; helping them shape a future where human rights are at the centre of decision-making at global, regional and national level.
The webinar will take place from 14:00-15:00 CET on Wednesday, 12 April 2023. Admission to the webinar is free. Interested participants are invited to register here.