By Lena Williams, Guild-CWA :: An international coalition of journalists, media organizations and unions has adopted an agenda making freedom of the press a priority in the global development goals set by the United Nations and its member states.
During a three-day conference in Bali, Indonesia, in late August, the Global Media Forum approved a “road map” that affirms the right of a free press and the right to seek, receive and impart information.
The forum, comprising more than 300 media organizations, journalists, unions, civil society and international agencies, is working to ensure that freedom of expression and an independent press is, for the first time, a priority in the 2015 global development goals set by the U.N.
In doing so, the forum has, in effect, placed the issue of a free press on the agenda of the U.N.’s 69th General Assembly, which convenes Tuesday in New York City.
The “Bali Road Map: The Roles of the Media in Realizing the Future We Want for All,” calls on governments around the world to recognize freedom of the press as a major underpinning in “how a country shapes development, shares ideas and innovations and holds powerful actors to account.”
The road map states that these goals can only be realized “where the media is free, pluralistic and independent and where there is safety for actors producing journalism.”
Irina Bokova, the director-general of UNESCO, spoke of the importance of a free press as a “vibrant sector in all facets of human and social development.”
“Freedom of expression is essential to dignity, democracy, sustainable development, dialogue peace and tolerance,” Bokova said. “Information and knowledge hold the key to crafting the future we want for all.”
The forum proposed the following actions for consideration by governments around the world:
- To respect freedom of expression, including press freedom.
- To reconsider cases of imprisoned journalists in the light of international standards and human rights.
- To enable publicly-owned media to be editorially independent, be protected against political interference and be adequately funded in order to provide quality content in the public interest
- To make concerted efforts to ensure that those involved in the production of journalism can work without fear or risk of attack.
Bernie Lunzer, president of The Newspaper Guild-CWA, said the principles of the Bali Road Map are needed more than ever, as journalists risking their lives to report on the world’s most dangerous hot spots increasingly become the targets of terrorists.
“In one month, we’ve seen the savage execution of two journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff,” Lunzer said. “But barbarians are far from the only threat journalists face. The governments of Egypt, of Russia, Turkey, Vietnam and far too many other countries are imprisoning journalists. And many countries aren’t trying very hard, if at all, to arrest and prosecute terrorists who kidnap and kill journalists.”
Not even the United States has clean hands, Lunzer notes. Infringements on press freedom have become common, from local police arresting journalists and photographers to the federal government threatening to jail a reporter if he doesn’t testify against an alleged source.
The Bali Road Map isn’t a cure, but is a step in the right direction, Lunzer said.
“Anything that gets the world community to pay more attention to the atrocities being committed against journalists, and puts global pressure on countries – including ours — to loosen their control over press freedom is something we fully support,” he said.