World Press Freedom Day to Be Celebrated In U.S., with Knight Funding

Event Provides Opportunity for a Global Conversation about the New Frontiers of Press Freedom

WASHINGTON – Organizations advocating for press freedom around the world today welcomed the announcement by the United States Department of State that World Press Freedom Day will be hosted by the United States for the first time in 2011. The event will focus on media freedom in the digital age.

The announcement made today by the United States Department of State underscores the importance of keeping press freedom at the forefront of the global agenda.  Even as 21st century media broadens the reach of journalism, it also exposes new threats to free expression and the uncensored flow of information.  These are fundamental issues that will be addressed during World Press Freedom Day 2011.

The program under the theme 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers will be held May 1-3, 2011, at the Newseum, the National Press Club and other venues in Washington, DC. More than 20 organizations working to advance free expression worldwide are collaborating with the U.S. Department of State and UNESCO to plan the events.

Lead funding for the event is being provided by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, (www.knightfoundation.org). The foundation will match up to $125,000 in contributions from others to cover the costs of the event.

A global dialogue around the announcement is getting underway.  Information about World Press Freedom Day, the work of media freedom defenders worldwide, and UNESCO’s Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize is available on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/WPFD2011/ and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/wpfd2011.

Organizations supporting World Press Freedom Day released the following joint statement in reaction to the announcement by Director-General Bokova:

“Freedom of expression and freedom of the media are fundamental pillars of democratic society.   We welcome the announcement that World Press Freedom Day 2011 will be commemorated this year in Washington, D.C. as a unique opportunity to address these issues as part of a global dialogue.

World Press Freedom Day 2011 will mark 20 years since the Declaration of Windhoek, which led to the establishment of World Press Freedom Day. In those two decades, the media landscape has changed in ways few could have imagined.  While there are new and exciting opportunities for professional and citizen journalists, those who seek to freely report the news face greater challenges today than ever before.

Expanding access to the internet and mobile technologies has opened new routes for gathering and sharing news and information. Those same technologies also have provided new tools to regimes that seek to filter and censor information or to silence those who want to express themselves.  World Press Freedom Day 2011 will offer a forum for media freedom advocates, journalists, and policymakers to tackle these challenges and keep them on the global agenda.  Freedom of the media is a fundamental human right that requires strong support and constant vigilance.

We commend the leadership of UNESCO and the U.S. Department of State for elevating the dialogue about freedom of the press in a shifting media landscape. The support of UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will raise the profile of the discussion, and help ensure that the conversations taking place in Washington, D.C., at World Press Freedom Day invigorate the global movement to protect and expand freedom of expression.”

Signed:

  • Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) at the National Endowment for Democracy (www.cima.ned.org) – Executive Committee
  • IREX (www.irex.org) – Executive Committee
  • United Nations Foundation (www.unfoundation.org) – Executive Committee

For information regarding the World Press Freedom Day 2011 program, please contact Shannon Maguire of CIMA at worldpressfreedomday.cima@ned.org

For information about sponsoring events or participants at World Press Freedom Day 2011, please contact Dru Menaker of IREX at worldpressfreedomday@irex.org

For media inquiries or information about communications partnerships for World Press Freedom Day 2011, please contact Aaron Sherinian of the United Nations Foundation at info@unfoundation.org

For information about the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, please contact Marc Fest at fest@knightfoundation.org

Visit the World Press Freedom Day 2011 Facebook Page for more information http://www.facebook.com/WPFD2011/.

Find World Press Freedom Day 2011 on Twitter:  http://twitter.com/wpfd2011.  

Watch  World Press Freedom Day 2011 on YouTube: www.youtube.com/wpfd2011

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.