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United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's Office in Nairobi, Kenya

 

World Press Freedom Day UNESCO

3 rd and 4 th May 2006 at the Silver Springs Hotel, Nairobi , Kenya

 

As has been its tradition over the years, UNESCO Regional Communication Office hosted the annual World Press Freedom Day on 3 rd and 4 th May 2006 under the theme: ' The Relationship Between Press Freedom, Development and Poverty Eradication." The event brought together participants from the region drawn from media professionals, development agencies, economists, academicians, actors from selected civil society groups and UNESCO representatives from the Region. The primary objective of the World Press Freedom Day is to contribute to the increasingly robust dialogue around issues of protecting the right to a free and independent media and seek ways of expanding the space for engagement between media and other sectors of society. Through a combination of strategic plenary presentations covering diverse perspectives from the Region, a number of issues emerged as pertinent to the scaling up of the role of the media in development in general and in furthering the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with special reference to poverty eradication. Three primary areas of focus were identified, namely; Empowerment, Sustainable economic development and transparent, accountable, non-corrupt government. The following is a summary of issues raised through the papers presented as well as from the very active interactions and responses from the participants.

 

Emerging Issues

1. UNESCO's Commitment : In a statement read on his behalf, UNESCO Director General underscored the importance of a free press in the furthering of the MDGs and in poverty eradication in particular and emphasized that UNESCO would remain committed to the pursuit of a free and responsible press.

2. Press Freedom and Responsibility: In his Key Note Address, Kenya's Minister for Information and Communication, Hon. Mutahi Kagwe acknowledged that while a free press is indispensable in development, that freedom must always be tempered by an equally high sense of responsibility which includes inculcating a culture of positivism, as well as embracing the universally accepted virtues of objectivity, truth and accuracy in reporting and information sharing by the media.

3. Role of Media in Poverty Eradication: The Workshop was in agreement that indeed, a free and independent media is quintessential to development in general and to the quest for poverty eradication in particular taking into account local peculiarities to inform the reporting on poverty and wealth creation.

4. Right Based Approach: The Workshop underscored the fact that all rights, including the right to access information, are intricately intertwined and that indeed, the right to information underpinned all other human rights as it enables the citizenry to exercise all other rights much more meaningfully.

5. Media as a Resource: Drawing from the experiences of the Seychelles , Ethiopia and Mauritius as case studies from the developing world, the Workshop was reminded that it is not enough for the media to merely report on poverty issues and on PRSP for instance. That media must seek to move a step further and become proactively appropriating the resources within their reach to advance the development agenda.

6. Relationship between Media and Governments: Drawing largely from the Kenyan example, the workshop observed that relationships between the media and governments are often frosty but that, that should not overshadow the need for mutual understanding for the sake of development indeed.

7. Indicators: The Workshop underscored the importance of keeping an honest score card detailing the verifiable indicators such as quality and lengths of articles or space devoted to coverage of poverty issues from a holistic perspective.

8. Content : It was observed that much of the content dominating the media in Africa is still foreign. Media were challenged to be more innovative and sensitive to local contexts and seek to promote an afro centric perspective to their reporting.

9. Regulating the Media: The participants generally agreed that while Government has no business regulating the Media, there is need to protect media from itself, eg from media owners and from journalists themselves. Ultimately, a self regulating media will be desirable.  

Recommendations put across for UNESCO's Communication Office action: 1. UNESCO should facilitate lobbying and advocacy to improve the environment and facilitates training, research and provision of resources especially in ICT to ensure access by all regardless of their paying capacities.

2. The participants recognized that poor media policies and an inadequate legislative infrastructure contributes significantly to the strangling of a free media. They therefore recommended that UNESCO acts liberally in creating the much needed synergy to bring media stakeholders together to address issues of policy and legislation with a view to putting in place a more conducive environment to allow flourishing of a free and independent media.

3. That UNESCO provides resources to relevant bodies and actors who deal with the media in fostering development. Specific areas of focus should include, the formulation of a clear media policy, Putting in place workable training policies to uphold the quality and levels of journalism, and addressing the living standards of journalist by specifically addressing their employment conditions.

4. There was also a recommendation that UNESCO collaborates with other stakeholders to put in place an ongoing training program as well as an exchange program for journalists to enhance their professional capacities.

5. Participants further recommended that UNESCO facilitates the establishment of a regional network of journalists committed to fighting corruption and alleviating poverty.

6. Finally, the participants reiterated the importance of a free and independent press as quintessential to development. In this regard, it is recommended that UNESCO jointly with other like-minded groups urgently facilitates a special forum to exclusively deal with media freedom in the so called people driven regimes.

  In conclusion, Participants were challenged to work out tangible, and practical strategies to follow through the workshop and so justify the enormous recourses spent by UNESCO in creating the platform for such a fruitful two days engagement.

 

 

 

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Last Updated on 22 July 2006
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