Magazine article Editor & Publisher

World Press Day Is Born(2)

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

World Press Day Is Born(2)

Article excerpt

Rising out of UNESCO's controversial history

Journalists around the world celebrate World Press Day next week as they fight to preserve the right to cover conflicts like the one in Yugoslavia.

The Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) recently criticized NATO and the United States for bombing the Serbian communications network.

"The bombing puts all journalists working in Yugoslavia at risk," says CPJ, an international organization that rarely criticizes United States free press violations.

The hope for an international free press is encompassed in Article 19 sometimes referred to as The First Amendment for the world. The General Assembly of the United Nations, a group of nations often seen as anathema to free speech and press rights, passed Article 19 on Dec. 10, 1948 as part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression," the General Assembly noted. "This right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers."

The U.N., however, has a hard job convincing anyone that it believes in press freedoms. The United Nations, Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) tried in 1976 to create an Orwellian- like New World Information and Communication Order. Under the proposal, reporters would be licensed and required to follow a code of conduct that would be enforced by world governments, a position contrary to the ideals of Article 19.

The U.S. reacted by withdrawing from UNESCO, which backed off its plan under intense criticism from most free world countries. Ironically, some Western European countries that found UNESCO's new world order so offensive discussed in 1995 setting up an international ombudsman with powers to punish wayward press people.

UNESCO regained some much-needed stature in 1991 when it sponsored the Windhoek conference, in Namibia, to promote an independent and pluralistic press in Africa. Seventy journalists from 35 countries passed the Windhoek Declaration on May 3, calling for a free press in Africa.

The seminar in Windhoek was held three years after W. Scott Stanley, then editor of American Press International, a U. …

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