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World Press Freedom Day: 3 May 2009


The freedom of the press in the world and the conditions under which the profession of journalist is practiced, in particular during conflicts, is a priority for France. Moreover, it is behind the adoption, in 2006, of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1738 on the protection of journalists in armed conflicts.

Infringement of freedom of the press has increased in recent years. Today, more than 145 journalists are prisoners around the world. Since the beginning of the year, their will to fully pursue their fact-finding missions has cost some journalists their lives.

On the occasion of the 19th World Press Freedom Day, the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs co-organized two days dedicated to the freedom of the press in the world to discuss this topic in the presence of journalists, members of non-governmental organizations, journalism students, and French and foreign diplomats. This was an opportunity to reassert France’s commitment to this basic freedom.

In New York

On May 6th, Mr. Jean-Maurice Ripert, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations organised a reception in the presence of Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations. The guests included members of the UN press, of the UN Secretariat, of NGOs, think tanks, universities. In conjunction with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and the French Consulate in New York.

Drawings from the cartoonist Plantu’s foundation "Cartooning for Peace" were sent for the occasion. They were displayed on the walls of the Ambassador’s residence during the reception.

Mr. Jean-Maurice Ripert and Mr. Ban Ki-Moon (Copyright : MAEE/Amaury Laporte)

Speech delivered by Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations

(in French and English)

"Mesdames et Messieurs les Représentants, Mesdames et Messieurs,

Je remercie le représentant permanent de la France d’avoir organisé cette réception, et je remercie son gouvernement du soutien qu’il apporte à la liberté de la presse.

L’article 19 de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme est clair.

Il garantit le droit de tout individu, et je cite, " de chercher, de recevoir et de répandre, sans considération de frontières, les informations et les idées par quelque moyen d’expression que ce soit. ".

Si nous célébrons chaque année la Journée mondiale de la liberté de la presse, c’est pour souligner non seulement l’importance cruciale de ce droit, mais aussi les dangers auxquels s’exposent les journalistes qui entendent l’exercer.

Already this year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 11 journalists have been killed in the line of duty.

Reporters without Borders puts the number even higher, at 18.

Three days ago, at a ceremony in Doha, UNESCO honored one of those journalists - Lasantha Wickrematunge of Sri Lanka - with its World Press Freedom prize for 2009.

I have called on the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure that those responsible for his murder are found and prosecuted. Impunity only sets the stage for more such attacks.

Journalists are also jailed with troubling frequency.

According to the groups I mentioned above, anywhere from 125 to 143 journalists are in prison.

Any Governments that have detained journalists must ensure that their rights are fully respected, including the right to appeal and defend themselves against charges.

Journalists must be able to do their job free of intimidation and harassment.

They should not have to self-censor themselves out of fear.

Je m’inquiète enfin de ce que certains gouvernements censurent l’internet et interdisent l’accès des usagers aux articles de journalistes et de bloggeurs qui utilisent ce moyen de diffusion.

On sait que les blogs se multiplient dans les pays où les restrictions imposées aux médias sont les plus lourdes.

Comment s’en étonner ? Communiquer n’est pas seulement un droit pour les individus, c’est aussi une nécessité, s’ils veulent pouvoir faire entendre leurs doléances ou dénoncer des problèmes, ou tout simplement résister à la répression.

En ce jour où nous célébrons la journée mondiale de la liberté de la presse, rendons hommage à ceux qui nous informent sur l’état de notre monde, et qui risquent souvent leur vie pour nous assurer une vie meilleure."

(Copyright : MAEE/Amaury Laporte)

Speech delivered by Mr. Jean-Maurice Ripert, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

"In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed in Article 19 that the right of everyone to freedom of opinion and expression "includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

Sixty years later, in 2008, according to the world association of newspapers, some 70 journalists were killed in the line of duty. And today, 120 journalists are imprisoned.

You can see on display cartoons from different countries, from the Cartooning for Peace Foundation, which was started by one of our most famous French cartoonist Plantu along with several colleagues from different countries. They believe the pen, here the drawing, can be mightier than the sword.

Secretary general, you played football last Sunday with some ambassadors to the UN to promote understanding between people through sport. My Minister Bernard Kouchner supported basketball teams of diplomats and journalists this week-end who gathered for an intense match as part of the World Press Freedom Day. This is what he said on this occasion:

"My thoughts today go especially to Anastasia Barburova, a young Russian journalist who was assassinated in the middle of the street in Moscow a few weeks ago. Freedom of the press is our common and imprescriptible good. It is a guarantee for democracy and equitable access to information for all."

The world is confronted with very difficult and potentially very dangerous challenges (financial crisis, food security crisis, climate change). To face these, we have the United Nations. Let’s stick together, to protect it and reinforce it, for the sake of the values on which we built it 60 years ago. Among them democracy, the rule of law, human rights. The freedom of the press and the freedom of information are an indivisible part of those human rights.

Be assured that France will continue to fight so that every single journalist and every single people can continue to enjoy them.

Long live the press and freedom of information."

Freedom of the press in a few dates

- 1789

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen proclaims in article 11: "The free communication of thoughts and opinions is one of the most precious rights of man: any citizen thus may speak, write, print freely, save to respond to the abuse of this liberty, in the cases determined by the law."

- 1881

France enshrines the principle of freedom of the press in the law of 29 July 1881. The law provides for an administrative scheme specific to the written press, the definition of various offences (defamation, provocation to crimes and offences, etc.) aiming to institute a balance between freedom of speech and protection of persons, the establishment of a specific criminal liability system and the establishment of a specific procedural system.

- 1993

The United Nations General Assembly institutes World Press Freedom Day in December 1993. The 19th World Press Freedom Day is being celebrated this year because we go back to 1991, the year of the seminar on the development of an independent and pluralistic African press organized in Windhoek, Namibia, which led to the adoption of the Windhoek Declaration on the promotion of independent and pluralistic media.

- 1997

Creation of the UNESCO-Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, intended to honour a person, organization or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the defence and/or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, especially when this has been achieved in the face of danger. In 2007 for example, this prize was awarded posthumously to the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

- 2006

On 23 December 2006, the United Nations Security Council adopts Resolution 1738 on the protection of journalists in armed conflicts. This resolution reasserts the need to prevent acts of violence against journalists and to try the perpetrators of such violence when it could not be prevented.

- 2008

On 12 March 2008, the French association, Reporters Without Borders, launches the first World Internet Freedom of Speech Day. The operation aims to draw attention to cyber-dissidents who are currently behind bars "for having exercising their right of expression on the Internet".

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