Message of UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

03 May 2014

Message on World Press Freedom Day

Each year on World Press Freedom Day, we reaffirm our commitment to the fundamental freedom to receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers, enshrined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Yet every day of the year sees this right under assault.

Journalists are singled out for speaking or writing uncomfortable truths – kidnapped, detained, beaten and sometimes murdered. Such treatment is completely unacceptable in a world ever more reliant on global news outlets and the journalists who serve them.

In conflict areas, journalists often wear blue uniforms and helmets so that they can be easily identified and protected against attack.  As we know from the UN’s own peacekeeping operations, the colour blue provides no guarantee of safety.

Last year 70 journalists were killed, many caught in the cross-fire of armed hostilities. Fourteen more have suffered the same fate this year.

Last year, 211 journalists were being held in prison. Some 456 journalist have been forced into exile since 2008.  And since 1992, well over 1,000 journalists have been killed -- nearly one per week.

These are alarming figures. Behind each statistic stands a man or a woman simply going about their lawful business.

There must be no impunity for those who target journalists for violence, intimidation or distorted uses of legal procedures to disrupt or impede their work.

Media freedoms must continue to be at the centre of our work to promote security, dignity and prosperity for all.

Member States are deep in discussion about the post-2015 development agenda.  This is a once-in-generation opportunity to steer the world in a more sustainable and equitable direction.

Free media, traditional and new, are indispensable for development, democracy and good governance.  They can promote transparency about the new goals that Member States will adopt – progress as well as shortfalls. Social media and mobile technologies offer new tools for accelerating citizen participation and economic and social progress.  The media’s watchdog function is essential for holding Governments, businesses and others to account.

On this World Press Freedom Day, I call on all Governments, societies and individuals to actively defend this fundamental right as critical factors in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and advancing the post-2015 development agenda. 

Freedom of expression, independent media and universal access to knowledge will fortify our efforts to achieve lasting results for people and the planet.