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A free press is essential for peace, justice and human rights for all
by UN News, UNESCO, IFJ, RSF, CPJ, agencies
3 May 2018
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres''s message on World Press Freedom Day
A free press is essential for peace, justice and human rights for all. It is crucial to building transparent and democratic societies and keeping those in power accountable. It is vital for sustainable development.
Journalists and media workers shine a light on local and global challenges and tell the stories that need to be told. Their service to the public is invaluable.
Laws that protect independent journalism, freedom of expression and the right to information need to be adopted, implemented and enforced. Crimes against journalists must be prosecuted.
On World Press Freedom Day 2018, I call on governments to strengthen press freedom, and to protect journalists. Promoting a free press is standing up for our right to truth.
Message from Ms Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO
“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” These words written by Thomas Jefferson in 1786, when he was fighting for the independence of his country, have a universal scope that transcends the historical moment of the foundation of the United States of America. Any State under the rule of law that respects individual freedoms, and particularly the freedoms of opinion, conscience and expression, relies on a free, independent press that is safe from censorship or coercion.
The ideal of a State under the rule of law calls for well-informed citizens, transparent political decisions, public debates on topics of common interest and a plurality of viewpoints that shapes opinions and undermines official truths and dogmatism. This shaping and informative power mainly falls to the press and the media in general, under all their guises and through various mediums.
UNESCO is actively involved in defending the freedom of expression, which is at the core of its mandate, and today celebrates the 25th World Press Freedom Day. The theme chosen this year is an open invitation to think of the relations between the media, justice and the rule of law. It is also an opportunity to examine the new challenges regarding the freedom of online press. Freedom of the press, like any other freedom, is never completely secure.
The development of a knowledge and information-based society via digital channels implies heightened vigilance, to ensure the essential criteria of transparency, free access and quality.
Quality information requires working to check sources and select pertinent subjects; it calls for ethics and an independence of mind. It thus depends entirely on the work of journalists. World Press Freedom Day is also an opportunity to highlight the crucial role played by this profession in defending and preserving the democratic rule of law.
In 2017, 79 journalists were assassinated worldwide in the exercise of their profession (with a further 260 imprisoned). UNESCO is committed to defending the safety of journalists and fighting against impunity for crimes committed against them.
World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development. (UNESCO)
Across the world, journalism is under fire. While more individuals have access to content than ever before, the combination of political polarization and technological change have facilitated the rapid spread of hate speech, misogyny and unverified ''fake news'', often leading to disproportionate restrictions on freedom of expression. In an ever-growing number of countries, journalists face physical and verbal attacks that threaten their ability to report news and information to the public.
In the face of such challenges, this new volume in the World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development series offers a critical analysis of new trends in media freedom, pluralism, independence and the safety of journalists. With a special focus on gender equality in the media, the report provides a global perspective that serves as an essential resource for UNESCO Member States, international organizations, civil society groups, academia and individuals seeking to understand the changing global media landscape.
Apr. 2018
Human rights experts urge media protection and end to attacks on journalists on World Press Freedom Day
The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, David Kaye, and rights experts from around the world have joined forces to highlight growing threats to media independence and diversity worldwide, particularly those affecting digital outlets.
In a joint declaration to mark World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, they emphasise the essential role of independent media in democratic societies, and express grave concern about physical attacks on journalists, as well as surveillance, marginalization and squeezing out of independent outlets around the world.
Mr. Kaye welcomed the declaration saying: “Free and independent media facilitate democratic institutions and accountability, while attacks on journalists and journalism undermine the very idea of public participation and governmental accountability.”
“Attacks on journalists are deplorable and State authorities must do more to prevent them. These attacks stem in part from increasingly irresponsible framing of journalists as ‘enemies’ by political and business leaders, but are also aimed at deterring investigative reporting in the public interest. All those committed to independent and diverse media must join together now to stop such attacks,” the Special Rapporteur stressed.
“In addition to physical attacks, those acting on behalf of the State threaten journalism on political, legal and technological fronts. They abuse public resources by placing advertisements only with friendly outlets, assert financial or other forms of control, and promote or permit media concentrations,” Mr. Kaye added.
The Joint Declaration on Media Independence and Diversity in the Digital Age has been issued by Mr. Kaye and counterparts from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights.
It also urges governments to promote media independence and diversity, emphasizes fundamental norms of human rights law and urges States to meet their obligations, and calls on others, such as the media and private internet companies, to take steps to ensure that independent media can continue to play a central role in democratic societies.
* Access the joint declaration:
Afghanistan: Nine journalists killed in Kabul suicide attack. (International Federation of Journalists)
According to reports, 9 journalists were killed in Kabul, Afghanistan in back-to-back suicide attacks, the second of which targeted the journalists on April 30, 2018.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joined the Afghanistan Independent Journalists Association (AIJA) in strongly condemning the killing of nine journalists in the targeted attack; and demanded urgent action from the Afghan government to punish those responsible.
The two suicide attacks hit central Kabul, on 30th April. The first bomb was detonated by an assailant on a motorcycle and the second was detonated 20 minutes later among those who had come to rescue those targeted in the first attack, including a group of journalists.
Agence France-Presse (AFP) chief photographer in Kabul Shah Marai, Tolo News cameraman Yar Mohammad Tokhi, Radio Azadi correspondents Abadullah Hananzai, Moharram Durrani and Sabawoon Kakar, 1TV reporter Ghazi Rasooli and cameraman Nowroz Ali Rajabi, Mashal TV reporter Salim Talash and cameraman Ali Salimi were killed in the second blast when a suicide bomber disguised as a journalist detonated himself among the journalists who had gathered to cover the first attack.
At least 29 people were killed and dozens of others –including two journalists – were injured in the twin suicide blasts that took place in Shashdarak area. The Islamic State (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Anthony Bellanger, IFJ General Secretary, said: “This is a terrible day for journalists all over the world as we have lost at least seven of our colleagues in a targeted suicide bombing. The journalists were on duty to report about the earlier attack, simply informing the public. The IFJ strongly condemns the killing and demands urgent action from the government to ensure justice for the slain journalists. This act of terrorism targeting journalists also shows that Afghanistan, despite being the world’s most dangerous country for journalists for many years, has not done enough to ensure the safety of journalists.”
Apr. 2018
Afghan Media Condemns Attack on its Journalists. (Tolo News)
The Afghanistan Federation of Journalists (AFJ) and the country’s media has issued a joint statement condemning Monday’s explosions – stating the terrorist attack was a war crime.
“This terrorist attack is a war crime and an organized attack on the Afghan media,” the statement read. “Despite today''s attack and other threats against journalists, the Afghan media is committed to providing information.
“The attack in the heart of Kabul and in the Green Zone indicates a serious lack of security by the government.
“In a joint letter, the Afghan media has called on the International Court of Justice and the UN Security Council to investigate the incident.
“The media, which has lost colleagues and has colleagues that are wounded, is committed to supporting the families of those killed and wounded in the incident. We ask government to help the families of the victims.
April 30 will be remembered as the deadliest day in Afghan media history and the industry will mark the day in future in honor of its fallen colleagues, read the statement.
Nine journalists and cameramen, including TOLO news cameraman Yar Mohammad Tokhi, were killed and wounded in Monday’s bombing, which happened after first responders and journalists arrived at the scene of an earlier explosion.
Apr. 2018
Journalists and emergency responders arriving to help injured targeted in terror attack. (UN News)
According to reports, at least 14 civilians were killed and over 30 injured in two attacks that took place on Monday morning (local time) in a heavily populated neighbourhood in central Kabul. The second attack was timed 30 minutes later to target journalists arriving on the scene and emergency services personnel seeking to provide aid to victims of the first attack.
“The deliberate targeting of journalists in the attack highlights once again the risks media professionals face in carrying out their essential work,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “Those responsible for such crimes must be swiftly brought to justice,” he added.
In a third attack, at least 11 children were killed in a suicide bombing that reportedly targeted a military convoy in Kandahar province.
“These attacks cause untold human suffering to Afghan families,” Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan and the head of the UN Assistance Mission in the country (UNAMA), said. He also condemned the attacks in Kabul, coming just ahead of World Press Freedom Day, as a “direct assault on freedom of expression.”
Mr. Yamamoto also reiterated the protections accorded to civilians under international humanitarian law and called on all parties to uphold their obligations, “at all times”.
“Yesterday’s attack, like all such attacks on journalists, is an attack on Afghanistan’s free press and the public’s right to know,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, who called on the Government to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“These attacks serve to remind those who glibly demonize the press that journalists serve a crucial function in societies: the illumination of all matters of public interest,” Mr. Kaye said. “The legacy of those killed is their reminder that serving the public’s right to know, can be dangerous and deserves all of our respect and support.”
Apr. 2018
UN experts call on Myanmar to drop prosecution of Reuters reporters. (UN Human Rights Council)
A Myanmar court’s decision to continue pursuing a case against two Reuters reporters gives rise to grave concern for investigative journalism and the public’s right to information in the country, UN experts have said.
“We urge the prosecution to drop the charges against Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and we urge the Government to release both journalists immediately,” the experts said.
On 11 April 2018, a court in Yangon rejected a motion to dismiss the case against the two reporters. It scheduled a hearing for 20 April 2018 to hear additional prosecution witnesses.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were reporting on the widespread assault on the Rohingya population in Rakhine State when authorities arrested them on 12 December 2017. The authorities accuse the journalists of illegally acquiring information with the intention of sharing it with foreign media. On 21 December 2017, UN experts raised concern that the charges brought against the reporters under the 1923 Official Secrets Act are tantamount to the criminalisation of journalism in Myanmar.
On 10 April 2018, seven soldiers were sentenced to 10 years in prison with hard labor in a remote area for participating in a massacre of 10 Rohingya Muslim men in a village in Rakhine State.
“The perpetrators of a massacre that was, in part, the subject of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo’s reporting have been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. And yet these two reporters face a possible 14 years imprisonment. The absurdity of this trial and the wrongfulness of their detention and prosecution are clear,” the experts said.
“We urge the Government to ensure not only the protection and release of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. We also urge the Government to ensure that investigative journalism, especially journalism relating to human rights violations and the situation in Rakhine State, is duly protected in Myanmar.”
* The Special Rapporteurs are in contact with the Myanmar authorities concerning the case. The UN experts: David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; and Yanghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.
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9 out of 10 people worldwide breathe polluted air
by World Health Organization (WHO)
May 2018
Air pollution levels remain dangerously high in many parts of the world. New data from WHO shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants. Updated estimations reveal an alarming death toll of 7 million people every year caused by ambient (outdoor) and household air pollution.
“Air pollution threatens us all, but the poorest and most marginalized people bear the brunt of the burden,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. “It is unacceptable that over 3 billion people – most of them women and children – are still breathing deadly smoke every day from using polluting stoves and fuels in their homes. If we don’t take urgent action on air pollution, we will never come close to achieving sustainable development.”
WHO estimates that around 7 million people die every year from exposure to fine particles in polluted air that penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, causing diseases including stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections, including pneumonia.
Ambient air pollution alone caused some 4.2 million deaths in 2016, while household air pollution from cooking with polluting fuels and technologies caused an estimated 3.8 million deaths in the same period.
More than 90% of air pollution-related deaths occur in low and middle-income countries, mainly in Asia and Africa, followed by low- and middle-income countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region, Europe and the Americas.
Around 3 billion people – more than 40% of the world’s population – still do not have access to clean cooking fuels and technologies in their homes, the main source of household air pollution. WHO has been monitoring household air pollution for more than a decade and, while the rate of access to clean fuels and technologies is increasing everywhere, improvements are not even keeping pace with population growth in many parts of the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
WHO recognizes that air pollution is a critical risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), causing an estimated one-quarter (24%) of all adult deaths from heart disease, 25% from stroke, 43% from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 29% from lung cancer.
More than 4300 cities in 108 countries are now included in WHO’s ambient air quality database, making this the world’s most comprehensive database on ambient air pollution. Since 2016, more than 1000 additional cities have been added to WHO’s database which shows that more countries are measuring air pollution than ever before. The database collects annual mean concentrations of fine particulate matter, including pollutants, such as sulfate, nitrates and black carbon, which pose the greatest risks to human health.
“Many of the world’s megacities exceed WHO’s guideline levels for air quality by more than 5 times, representing a major risk to people’s health,” says Dr Maria Neira, Director of the Department of Public Health, Social and Environmental Determinants of Health, at WHO. “We are seeing an acceleration of political interest in this global public health challenge. The increase in cities recording air pollution data reflects a commitment to air quality assessment and monitoring. Most of this increase has occurred in high-income countries, but we hope to see a similar scale-up of monitoring efforts worldwide.”
Major sources of air pollution from particulate matter include the inefficient use of energy by households, industry, the agriculture and transport sectors, and coal-fired power plants. In some regions, sand and desert dust, waste burning and deforestation are additional sources of air pollution. Air quality can also be influenced by natural elements such as geographic, meteorological and seasonal factors.
Air pollution does not recognize borders. Improving air quality demands sustained and coordinated government action at all levels. Countries need to work together on solutions for sustainable transport, more efficient and renewable energy production and use and waste management.
Key findings:
WHO estimates that around 90% of people worldwide breathe polluted air. Over the past 6 years, ambient air pollution levels have remained high and approximatively stable, with declining concentrations in some part of Europe and in the Americas.
The highest ambient air pollution levels are in the Eastern Mediterranean Region and in South-East Asia, with annual mean levels often exceeding more than 5 times WHO limits, followed by low and middle-income cities in Africa and the Western Pacific.
Africa and some of the Western Pacific have a serious lack of air pollution data. For Africa, the database now contains PM measurements for more than twice as many cities as previous versions, however data was identified for only 8 of 47 countries in the region.
Europe has the highest number of places reporting data. In general, ambient air pollution levels are lowest in high-income countries, particularly in Europe, the Americas and the Western Pacific. In cities of high-income countries in Europe, air pollution has been shown to lower average life expectancy by up to 24 months, depending on pollution levels.

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