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International media professionals adopt Doha Declaration on the Potential of Media: Dialogue, Mutual Understanding and Reconciliation

04-05-2009 (Doha)
International media professionals adopt Doha Declaration on the Potential of Media: Dialogue, Mutual Understanding and Reconciliation
Some 250 media professionals from around the world adopted a declaration emphasizing the importance of media in communicating across cultural differences at the close of a two-day international conference entitled “Potential of Media: Dialogue, Mutual Understanding and Reconciliation” in Doha (Qatar).
The “Doha Declaration on the Potential of Media: Dialogue, Mutual Understanding and Reconciliation”, was one of the major outcomes of the conference on press freedom organized by UNESCO and the Doha Center for Media Freedom in the Qatar city on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day 2009.

The Declaration stresses that independent and pluralistic media are essential for ensuring transparency, accountability and participation as fundamental elements of good governance and human rights-based development. It furthermore notes that freedom of opinion and expression are essential for free and democratic societies and contribute to a better understanding of and a dialogue among cultures.

The Doha Declaration urges media and professional associations to commit themselves to improving the professional qualifications of journalists, and to exercise the highest ethical and professional standards in their work.

It calls on States to provide the conditions that will enable journalists and media professionals to do their work freely and safely without intimidation, such as the establishment of legal frameworks that guarantee freedoms of expression, thought, conscience and religion. The Declaration furthermore calls on States to ensure rigorous and independent investigations and prosecutions in cases of harassment and violence against journalists and bloggers, and to put an end to impunity.

UNESCO is called upon to use the Declaration as a reference for the Organization’s activities in the area of freedom of expression.

World Press Freedom Day (2-3 May) celebrations and the award ceremony of the 2009 UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize were held in Doha to mark the 12th anniversary of the creation of the Prize.

The late Lasantha Wickrematunge was awarded this year’s Press Freedom Prize posthumously. Mr Wickrematunge was assassinated on 8 January this year. His niece, Ms Natalie Samarasinghe was at the ceremony to receive the award. “By recognizing Lasantha’s achievement, we are sending the message to the perpetrators that killing the messenger is not the solution,” Ms Samarasinghe said. The award is supported by the Cano and Ottaway family foundations and by JP/Politiken Newspaper LTD.

In his award presentation speech, the Director-General of UNESCO Koïchiro Matsuura stated that the Prize “seeks to draw attention to the importance of press freedom and the danger media professionals face in many parts of the world.” He furthermore added that by challenging attitudes and stereotypes, “the media can help strip away the prejudices and ignorance that breed suspicion. It can promote an acceptance of difference that values diversity as an opportunity for learning and understanding.”

As he handed over the award, Mr Matsuura declared that “today we pay tribute to Lasantha Wickrematunge’s struggle for freedom of expression and give thanks for the life of this remarkable journalist.”

H.E. Dr Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al Kuwari, Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage of Qatar welcomed and addressed the participants at the start of the ceremony.

Also in attendance at the award ceremony were Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned and H.E. Sheikh Hamad Bin Thamer Al Thani, Chairman of the Board, Doha Center for Media Freedom.

Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned later took the floor. In her closing remarks, Her Highness spoke of the essential role of responsible and professional press in bridging cultural divides. “This, in my view, is the path towards achieving reconciliation among people and cultures,” she said.

The Conference was co-organized by UNESCO with the Doha Centre for Media Freedom.
Related themes/countries

      · Qatar
      · World Press Freedom Day 2009
      · Press Freedom: News Archives 2009
      · Lasantha Wickrematunge
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