UNESCO and its Director-General, Madam Audrey Azoulay has hosted an online discussion on the importance of free media in providing the public with reliable independent information, vital in times of crisis.
The discussion was part of activities outlined to celebrate the ‘World Press Freedom Day’, which falls on May 3 of every year.
A statement from the Office of UNESCO, Ghana and copied to the Ghana News Agency, said the High-level Dialogue on ‘Press Freedom and Tackling Disinformation’ in the COVID-19 context, was streamed online on Monday, May 4.
UNESCO’s flagship event of World Press Freedom Day brought together UN Secretary-General António Guterres; UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet; Journalist Younes Mujahid, President of the International Federation of Journalists, and Maria Ressa, Investigative Journalist from the Philippines.
Others were Founder of the Rappler news website, and the Secretary-General of Reporters Without Borders, Christophe Deloire, with Prominent Mexican-born American journalist Jorge Ramos moderating the debate.
The debate addressed the danger of what the UN Secretary-General described as the “dangerous epidemic of misinformation” and advocated the need for a free press in countering disinformation which was putting lives at risk and undermining the response to the COVID-19 pandemic by promoting false cures, conspiracy theories and myths.
The statement said the debate followed the launch of a global UNESCO media campaign called FACTS on May 3, to highlight the role of free and independent media in the context of COVID-19.
Leading media organisations around the world, the statement said, would join the campaign, developed by award-winning communication agency DDB.
UNESCO also presented latest data from its 2020 World Trends Report on Media Independence and press freedom in times of COVID-19, to be launched on May 5, 2020, the statement said.
“Examining the information landscape during the pandemic, the report points to research showing that nearly 42 per cent of over 178 million tweets related to COVID-19 were produced by bots, and that 40 per cent of these messages were unreliable (the report will be made available here: http://en.unesco.org/commemorations/worldpressfreedomday.
“Information is a fundamental right. In times of COVID-19, Information can save lives. I wish to pay tribute to journalists, women and men who commit and take risks to keep us informed.
“Their work is more important than ever, as they help members of the public know how to act and governments to take informed decisions,” Madam Azoulay said.
Every year on May 3, the world comes together to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, take stock of freedom of expression around the world, and pay tribute to journalists who have faced attacks or lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.
World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 on the Recommendation of UNESCO’s General Conference.