19 April 2006

For or against free expression?

Since the publication of twelve cartoons in Denmark last year the world’s media have been torn by uncertainty on how to react.

World Press Freedom Day logo

Some editors have been more reticent than others. The question now being asked is whether this response has imposed a lasting impression on free speech.

“Free Expression is Sacred: For or Against”? is the motion to be debated at a special event to mark World Press Freedom Day on Wednesday, May 3 between 9.30am and noon.

The debate takes place at Portcullis House, in Westminster, London, and has attracted leading journalists, politicians and human rights activists.

All are welcome, but those intending to attend from Sheffield should inform Professor Jackie Harrison first. Tickets are available on request from Nick Gordon at UNESCO on 020 7766 3448.

Speakers are expected to include:
Her Excellency Dr Maleeha Lhodi High Commissioner for Pakistan;
Roger Koeppel, Editor-in-Chief Die Welt (to be confirmed);
Abdul-Rehman Malik, Editor Q-News;
Andrew Puddephat, UNESCO;
Waleed Ibrahim, a journalist from Iraq.

This year World Press Freedom Day is dedicated to the “the correlation between media freedom and the eradication of poverty”.

Backers of the event say independent and free media have a crucial role to play in the good governance of democratic societies, by ensuring transparency and accountability, promoting participation and the rule of law, and contributing to the fight against poverty.

World Press Freedom Day aims to remind the world of the importance of protecting the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and freedom of the press, as stated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Organisers UNESCO say aid agencies and NGOs are recognising the impact of media assistance in fostering sustainable development and alleviating extreme poverty. Media freedom and access to information play a key role in facilitating local participation and empowerment of the poor.

Unesco’s website states: “Freedom of expression is furthermore the core human right in a rights based approach to poverty reduction, since it serves as a trigger and catalyst for the realization of all other basic human rights.”