Sunday, January 23, 2022

30th World Press Freedom Day: reiterating the imperative role of free press in nation-building

Freedom of the press is a precious privilege that no country can forego- Mahatma Gandhi

May 3rd is celebrated as World Press Freedom Day to remind governments all over the world, of the imperative need to respect their commitment towards the freedom of the press.

The day also commemorates the reflection among media professionals on issues of press freedom and professional ethics. It is an opportunity to assess the state of freedom of the press across the world and to pay tribute to journalists who lost their lives in the line of duty.

The Windhoek Declaration:

“The establishment, maintenance and fostering of an independent, pluralistic and free press is essential to the development and maintenance of democracy in a nation, and for economic development.”

– Windhoek Declaration

The roots of the World Press Freedom Day can be traced back to a UNESCO conference held in Windhoek in 1991. The event that commenced on 29th April 1991, ended on 3rd May with the adoption of the landmark Windhoek Declaration for the development of a Free, Independent, and Pluralistic Press.

The year 2021 marks 30 years to the historic declaration that still works to preserve the freedom of the press throughout the world.

2021 Theme: ‘Information as a public good’

The theme for this year’s World Press Freedom Day is “Information as a Public Good”. The theme seeks to serve as a call to reaffirm the imperative of cherishing information as a public good. By this, the world shall collectively explore ways in which the production, distribution, and reception of content can be made more transparent and inclusive for strengthening journalism.

The theme underlines the importance of information within the online media environment and thus commands immediate relevance across the globe. The World Press Freedom Day 2021 will further highlight three key objectives:

– To ensure the economic viability of news media;
– To ensure transparency of Internet companies;
– To enhance Media and Information Literacy (MIL) capacities that enable people to recognize and value, as well as defend and demand, journalism as a vital part of information as a public good.

Press: The 4th pillar of India’s democracy

Press Freedom is not a novel concept in India. It has been voiced firmly since India’s freedom struggle. When Britishers tried to suppress India’s righteous claim to its independence, freedom fighters, journalists, columnists, writers and countrymen collectively decided to defy the British tyranny by means of their mighty pen.

To preserve the democratic fiber of a country and honor a journalist’s inherent right and duty to unravel and bring forth the truth, press freedom is an indispensable part of any country’s framework. The press, a powerful medium of mass communication should be free to play its role in building a strong viable society. Thus, Press in India is postulated as the 4th pillar guarding our democracy.

The Freedom of the Press is provided as the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression in the Article 19 and Article 19(1) of the Indian Constitution. The freedom of the press in India is subject to those restrictions which apply to the freedom of speech and expression of other citizens as mentioned in Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution.

These restrictions include defamation, contempt of court, decency or morality, security of the state, friendly relations with other states, incitement to an offense, public order, and maintenance of the sovereignty and integrity of India to effectively use information as a public good for ensuring a free, inclusive and transparent operation of the press.

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