It’s all too easy to take it for granted that the information we receive through the media is accurate and thorough. However, while the press has relative freedom in some parts of the world, censorship remains a problem in many countries.
On May 3, 2016, people around the world will celebrate the annual World Press Freedom Day. Discover more about this important event and the issues it highlights, and learn how you can get involved.
An Overview of World Press Freedom Day
World Press Freedom Day came into existence in 1993 when the United Nations proclaimed the observance at the recommendation of UNESCO’s General Conference.
UNESCO offers this description of the purpose of World Press Freedom Day: “It serves as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom and is also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics. Just as importantly, World Press Freedom Day is a day of support for media which are targets for the restraint, or abolition, of press freedom. It is also a day of remembrance for those journalists who lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.”
An Important Event
World Press Freedom Day is a time for citizens to step back, pay due appreciation to journalists, and voice their support for freedom of the press around the globe.
The number of journalists that have been killed in the line of duty is in itself a stark reminder of why this event is so important. In 2015 alone, 69 journalists were killed on the job. The most deaths occurred in Syria, and Islamic military groups were the main culprits behind the killings. Even more troubling is the fact that those who kill journalists seldom face appropriate consequences for their actions; in the past decade, more than 350 journalists were killed. In 90 percent of those cases, there were no convictions.
Oppression of the press isn’t just an issue in countries where there is obvious violence and animosity against journalists. In many countries, journalists face harsh jail sentences if they do not conform to the government’s ideas of what the public should know. The countries with the most media censorship are:
- North Korea
- Saudi Arabia
It is estimated that in Eritrea, 23 journalists are in jail, and none of them have even had the privilege of a trial. In North Korea, less than 10 percent of the population owns a cell phone, and access to the World Wide Web is highly restricted.
The above facts are just the tip of the iceberg. Media censorship is a troubling problem across the globe, and World Press Freedom Day serves as the annual demand that the issue be addressed.
What Happens on World Press Freedom Day?
Exactly how does World Press Freedom Day accomplish its mission? The main celebration will take place May 2 to May 4 at Finlandia Hall in Helsinki. There will be roundtable sessions, an award ceremony, and other events that center around this year’s themes, which are:
- Freedom of information and sustainable development.
- Protecting press freedom from censorship and surveillance overreach.
- Ensuring safety of journalists online and offline.
Finland isn’t the only place where World Press Freedom Day makes a splash. There will be celebrations in major cities throughout the world. You can find more information on UNESCO’s website.
How to Get Involved
If you feel passionately that the media should have its freedom, World Press Freedom Day is the perfect opportunity for you to voice your convictions.
Even if you can’t attend one of the official celebrations of World Press Freedom Day, you can participate by calling attention to the issues involved. Use your social media accounts to remember fallen journalists and share facts about media censorship.
You can also adopt tools that will give you access to content around the world, allowing you to circumvent government censorship. Hotspot Shield VPN allows you to change your virtual location, opening you up to take in perspectives from every corner of the globe. AnchorFree, the maker of Hotspot Shield, is determined to “provide secure and private access to the world’s information for every person on the planet.” Six million people download Hotspot Shield every month.
World Press Freedom Day is all about calling attention to important issues and battling the forced silence that governments seek to impose on their citizens. Take your stand on this issue by getting involved in this important worldwide event.