World Press Freedom Day 2002

Article excerpt

EVERY year in May, we have celebrated World Press Freedom Day through TV panel discussions, editorials and the like. This year, it will be different as the Philippines has been chosen to host the celebration which will culminate with the awarding of the Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize on May 3. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and UNESCO DirectorGeneral Koichiro Matsuura will award this coveted prize which last year was given to jailed Myanmar journalist U Win Tin.

The UNESCO National Commission (UNACOM) through its Communication Committee which I chair has been given the responsibility to plan the details of the activity which will be preceded by a conference on the topic Terrorism and Media. An adhoc planning committee consisting of the heads of media organizations like the Kapisanan ng Brodkaster sa Pilipinas, Philippine Press Institute, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, International Press Institute local chapter headed by publisher Max Soliven, the Department of Foreign Affairs, and members of the four other UNESCO committees on culture, education, social and human sciences, science and technology has been constituted. The various committees will be working with the officials from the Division of Freedom of Expression, Democracy and Peace in Paris.

Why terrorism and media? The preliminary conference document provides this rationale: "Terrorism tries to weaken international community and global security and takes many new forms. It operates with the principles of violence and fear and tries to influence international politics by the means of terror and military attacks. Recent events of September and October 2001 have raised the threat of terrorism violently into our consciousness and terrorism became again and more than ever a key topic dominating discussions in politics, media and civil society all around the globe..Often in these conflicts, terrorism is used as a means to produce an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty and to achieve certain ends, which may not be attained legally." The background paper notes the critical role media can play in fighting terrorism by focusing on the importance of the quality of media coverage about terrorist acts. The role of Internet which has altered the dynamics and complexity of terrorism summarized as Information Terrorism on Cyberspace will be one of the topics in addition to the following concerns: Media legislation and press freedom; safety of journalists reporting on terrorism; how to report on terrorism; and case studies about media coverage on terrorism. …