Afghanistan Celebrates World Press Freedom Day

May 7, 2013

UNDP Afghanistan / Farhad Zalmai: The special Afghanistan Edition of UNDP’s Development Advocate being launched in Kabul.

Kabul, Afghanistan: Today UNESCO, UNDP, Afghanistan Ministry of Information and Culture and Afghanistan Journalists Federation jointly celebrated the World Press Freedom Day under the global theme “Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media”. The Afghan observance came three days after the event was launched on 3 May at a ceremony held in San Jose, Costa Rica to mark the global launch.

More than 150 journalists, senior government representatives and members of the international community attended the Kabul observance of the 2013 World Press Freedom Day. The World Press Freedom Day in Kabul was marked by the launch of the Afghan edition of UNDP’s Development Advocate, the flagship news magazine from New York. The magazine, available in Dari, Pashto and English language, captures stories of transformative change in Afghan lives during the recent years across various areas of UNDP work in Afghanistan backed by the international community.

The launch in Kabul was led by the Afghan Deputy Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Din Mohammad Mobarez Rashidi, Hela Irshad, Member of Parliament, Mr. Alvaro Rodriguez, UNDP Country Director in Afghanistan and Mr. Paolo Fontani, the UNESCO Representative in Afghanistan. A message to mark the occasion was read on behalf of the Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Mark Bowdon.

In his Opening Remarks, Mr. Rashidi noted the many strides that Afghan media had made during the recent years in raising the standards of professional coverage of news and current events in the country. Reiterating his commitment to strengthening efforts to safeguard freedom of thought and expression for the media in Afghanistan, the Minister said the Government of Afghanistan would continue to promote an enabling environment in which all media persons felt safe to report on daily happenings, including events and stories that had a bearing on the lives of the citizens.

In his message, Mr. Bowdon remarked that despite the notable achievements made in the field of media, Afghan journalists are still facing daily threats, intimidation and arrests that undermine their ability to operate professionally. This is not acceptable and is to the detriment of the country. In a joint message by Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations and Ms. Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO said, “On this World Press Freedom Day, we call on Governments, societies and individuals to do their utmost to protect the safety of all journalists, offline and online. Everyone has a voice; all must be able to speak freely and in safety”. The statement was delivered by Mr. Paolo Fontani, Head of UNESCO Afghanistan.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Alvaro Rodriguez, UNDP Country Director said the World Press Freedom Day was an occasion to applaud and pay tribute to the work of the increasingly vibrant media sector. “In the backdrop of an evolving democracy with fragile conditions for rule of law, Afghan journalists are doing their best to inform and educate the public, and providing a tool for accountability for the Afghan people”, Mr. Rodriguez observed.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the celebration since 3 May was first proclaimed World Press Freedom Day at the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a recommendation adopted at the twenty-sixth session of UNESCO's General Conference in 1991. It serves as an occasion to inform citizens of violations of press freedom - a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered.

Every year, May 3rd is a date which celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom; to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.

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