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UNESCO’s New York Office commemorates World Press Freedom Day

06-05-2008 (New York)
UNESCO’s New York Office commemorates World Press Freedom Day
Justice Albie Sachs
© Thomas Khosa
UNESCO’s New York Office commemorated World Press Freedom Day with a keynote speech by Justice Albie Sachs, a chief architect of South Africa’s post-apartheid Constitution, on "Access to information and the empowerment of people."
"Openness as a standard practice goes well beyond journalist access; it’s got as much to do with dignity of people to have voices and expression," Sachs told nearly 100 journalists, United Nations delegates, officials and representatives of media advocacy groups and foundations who attended the lecture and luncheon.

Sachs described how years after he was detained and tortured by South African security forces, he was able to retrieve documents related to his own imprisonment. That moment, he said, illustrated how information can validate and restore human dignity.

A former member of UNESCO’s International Bioethics Committee, Sachs helped to draft the International Declaration on the Human Genome.

Sachs was appointed by Nelson Mandela in 1996 to serve on the country’s newly established Constitutional Court. The appointment followed decades of anti-apartheid activism, during which Sachs was twice detained and held without trial by South African authorities. He was banned from practicing law in the country and eventually forced into exile. In 1988, Sachs was the target of an attempted assassination by South African security agents, which cost him his right arm and sight in one eye.

Earlier in the day, UNESCO co-organized with the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) a World Press Freedom Day commemoration and conference. During the opening segment, Helene-Marie Gosselin, Director of the UNESCO Office in New York and Representative to the United Nations, delivered Director-General Koichiro Matsuura’s message for World Press Freedom Day.

The DPI-UNESCO conference, also under the theme of "Access to Information and the Empowerment of People", provided an overview of the global state of access to information and show how new information technologies allow for the empowerment of people, with a specific focus on Brazil.

The programme featured panelists, Norberto Moretti, Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Brazil to the United Nations; Richard Winfield, Chairman, World Press Freedom Committee; Fernando Rodrigues, Brazilian investigative journalist, Harvard Nieman Fellow; and Larry Rohter, Journalist, the New York Times.

A taped statement by Chief Almir Narayamoga Surui, who is working towards using satellite images to monitor illegal logging in the Amazon rainforest, was screened.
Related themes/countries

      · United States of America
      · World Press Freedom Day 2008
      · Access to Information: News Archives 2008
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