UNESCO and European Parliament to Join Forces in Advancing Press Freedom


On 24 April 2012 Jānis Kārkliņš, UNESCO Assistant Director General for Communication and Information, briefed the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament on UNESCO’s activities in the field of freedom of expression and media development in the Arab Region. The purpose of the debate was to facilitate an exchange of views and to enhance the cooperation between European Union and UNESCO in advancing media freedom.

In his address to MEPs Mr. Kārkliņš said that UNESCO is very active in the field of press freedom which includes activities such as helping member states to adjust their media laws as well as their legislation covering freedom of expression, freedom of press and access to information to meet the international standards.

He noted that UNESCO is involved in various projects in Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan, and is currently preparing for working with the new Libyan authorities. The organisation’s activities in the Menar region focus on capacity-building of journalism training institutions based on UNESCO Model Curricula for Journalism Education currently adopted by about 60 schools in 50 countries, including in Morocco and Egypt.

Mr. Kārkliņš stressed the importance of UNESCO’s cooperation with the European Union member states, many of whom have approached it with suggestions for funding projects in the region. The European Commission itself is currently looking at introducing public service broadcasting in the region, a project of which UNESCO is likely to be the main implementing agency.

In his presentation Mr. Kārkliņš highlighted the safety of journalists as one of the key focus areas of UNESCO’s work in this field. He drew attention to a recently approved UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity and invited the EU and European parliamentarians to get involved in the debate on the issue.

Mr. Kārkliņš concluded his address by inviting the MEPs to the World Press Freedom Day 2012 which will take place in Tunisia on 3 May and will focus on the role of media, youth and new technologies in societies in transformation, and on the role of parliamentarians in assuring freedom of expression and press freedom in countries in transition.

The MEPs were positively surprised by UNESCO’s many activities related to freedom of press and expressed an interest in cooperating with the organisation in this field. One of the possible joint activities mentioned was the organisation of the 2013 World Press Freedom Day in the European Parliament, since that year the Parliament celebrates 25th anniversary of its Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought.

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World Press Freedom Day is observed annually on 3 May to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, to assess the state of press freedom around the world, to raise awareness about violations of press freedom and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession. In the light of the recent uprisings in some Arab states which have demonstrated the power of new and old media, the theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day is “New Voices: Media Freedom Helping to Transform Societies”.