Good Governance and Press Freedom : World Press Freedom celebrations in Dakar, SenegalAn international conference on Media and Good Governance held in Dakar from May 1 to 3 ended with the adoption of a Declaration calling for respect for press freedom, access to information, and a repeal of criminal defamation laws.
The Declaration was adopted by some 150 participants representing the world’s major media and freedom of expression organizations*. They were in Dakar to attend the Conference which UNESCO organized to celebrate World Press Freedom Day.
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,” essential for the reduction of poverty.
The Declaration emphasizes the need for national authorities to create an environment that is favourable to free and independent media and to “recognize the right to access all information held by public bodies.”
At the close of the Conference, the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, declared: “every time the right to inform is undermined, human rights as a whole are being undermined.” He further said that “press freedom also requires honourable working conditions, and fair and decent wages for information workers.”
Mr Matsuura went on to call on Africa’s political leaders to “take into consideration the concerns of media personnel, so that together they may find the most appropriate solutions to the problems of training, management, equipment, legislation and access to information sources.”
Bacar Dia, Senegal’s Information Minister and Government Spokesperson closed the conference pledging his government would pay close attention to the recommendations made by the participants.
The President of the Republic of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, attended the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize ceremony alongside the Director-General and reiterated his country’s commitment to defend human rights and press freedom.
“After independence, some people said that development must come first and liberty will come later,” the President said. “We have chosen liberty as the foundation for our society and it is my conviction that the two must go hand in hand.”
During the ceremony, Larry Kilman, Director of Communications of the World Association of Newspapers (WAN), accepted the Prize on behalf of the 2005 laureate, Cheng Yizhong, whose message he read out:
“For us, the press practitioners of China, our top priority for the moment is to expand the right of the general public to be informed and to raise the political visibility. This is a duty that we have to shoulder and it is also ‘the power of the powerless.’ As journalists, you have the right to keep silent, but you have no right to tell lies. To tell the truth is not the maximum of journalists it’s the bottom line.”
** The World Association of Newspapers (WAN), Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, World Press Freedom Committee, Transparency International, West African Journalists Association (WAJA), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the International Union of the French-language Press, Media Institute for Southern Africa (Namibia), United Nations Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Panos Institute (Senegal), the Word Bank Global Network (WBGN), Article 19.