Celebrations marking this year’s World Press Freedom Day ended today in Riga with the adoption of the Riga Declaration, a non-binding statement expressing the commitment of over 500 participants to promote the significance of independent journalism for sustainable development.
The Declaration aims to improve the quality of journalism, enhance gender equality in the newsroom and promote safety of journalists, and links this to the United Nations negotiations for a new package of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will be adopted next autumn.
In the Declaration, participants state that “freedom of expression, press freedom and the right of access to information are fundamental rights and enable the enjoyment of all other human rights and the goals of sustainable development.”
Particular reference is made to Sustainable Development Goal 16 on the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies with access to justice for all. The Riga Declaration reiterates the essential contribution of journalists to the realization of this objective and insists on the need to end impunity for crimes against journalists and media workers.
The Declaration was adopted at the close of a two-day UNESCO conference in Riga which brought together media professionals and decision-makers on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day. The Conference focused on quality in journalism, gender equality and media safety in the digital age.
Meanwhile representatives of the Organization of American States, the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights and the African Union, adopted a declaration on Freedom of Expression and Responses to Conflict Situations.
Also on World Press Freedom Day, 3 May, the Director-General of UNESCO awarded the 2015 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize to imprisoned Syrian journalist and press freedom activist Mazen Darwish. The event took place with the participation of the President of Latvia, Andris Bērziņš, Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs and Culture Minister Dace Melbārde.
Finland will be the venue of UNESCO’s flagship celebration of World Press Freedom Day in 2016.
World Press Freedom Day this year was celebrated in more than 80 countries around the world by both official bodies and civil society and profession organizations.