UNOWAS and UNESCO celebrate 30 years of World Press Freedom Day
Recalling the proclamation in 1993 by the United Nations General Assembly that established 03 May as World Press Freedom Day, the Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for West Africa and the Sahel, Ms Giovanie BIHA, said that "the right to inform and be informed is essential to our freedom as individuals and as a society”. In shaping a future of rights for all, it is imperative to remember that freedom of expression is a key element of democracy and citizen participation.
UNOWAS, in collaboration with UNESCO organized a celebration of World Press Freedom Day on 3 May 2023 in Dakar. Conducted in partnership with Senegalese media organizations (Coordination des Associations de Presse, Maison de la Presse, International Women's Network, etc.) and regional and international organizations (ARTICLE 19, Panos Institute, Reporters Without Borders), the meeting was held under the global theme: "Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of Expression as the Driving Force of All Other Human Rights". It was attended by representatives of public institutions, experts, leaders and members of professional media organizations, media regulatory and arbitration bodies, civil society representatives, trade unions, media owners and journalists.
The meeting served as an opportunity for various stakeholders to take stock of the state of freedom of expression in Senegal and assess the challenges and opportunities facing the media sector in the country, and in the West African sub-region in general. The discussions focused on three specific themes, namely: the use of defamation laws to restrict press freedom; the safety of journalists, the challenges of combating disinformation and access to information in Senegal in the pre-election period; and the safety of journalists and human rights defenders in a context of increasing digital surveillance.
The Secretary General of the Ministry of Communication, Telecommunications and Digital Economy, Ms Fatou Binetou NDIAYE, representing the Minister at the opening of the meeting spoke of the need to protect the press and to reflect on the challenges within the sector. "In Senegal, our constitution enshrines freedom of expression as a fundamental right, and our country has ratified all the legal instruments on the subject”.
During discissions, the participants agreed on the major concerns at national level. Among others, the issues of media insecurity, physical and psychological violence against journalists, disinformation linked to the rise of social networks – all at a time when the law on information access is about to be finalized. To promote a free, strong, protected, independent and resilient press, and to fight against all forms of abuse, the various stakeholders recommended, among other things, the harmonization of all texts (press code, access to information law, defamation law, etc.) with the participation of journalists and civil society to ensure that their content complies with international standards and is conducive to the respect for human rights.