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Statement: AASU On World Press Freedom Day

By All Africa Students Union (AASU)
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The World Press Freedom Day should be an opportunity for all meaning people to be reminiscent of the necessity to promote, protect and safeguard freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Free and independent media is central to building strong democracies, promoting civic participation and the rule of law, and encouraging human development and security.

Conscious and knowledgeable people with the requisite know-how are likely to overcome any challenge that may be a hindrance to their development. As a result of the acknowledgement of the importance of press freedom and freedom of expression, the World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO's) General Conference.

Since then May 3, the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek- a statement of free press principles put together by African newspaper journalists in 1991- is celebrated worldwide as World Press Freedom Day.

It is an opportunity according to UNESCO “to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom; assess the state of press freedom throughout the world; defend the media from attacks on their independence and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.”

This year the Day is to be marked under the theme: “Media Freedom for a Better Future:

Shaping the post-2015 Development Agenda” and the focus is on three inter-related themes- the media's importance in development; the safety of journalists and the rule of law; and the sustainability and integrity of journalism.

The media in any society particularly in Africa, a continent characterized by endemic doldrums, should in an environment of free expression and freedom of the press constitute a powerful education and information sharing tools capable of liberating the people from ignorance and enabling them to overcome some of their challenges. The media is undoubtedly one of the important pillars in nation building through all efforts geared towards attaining sustainable development. For a continent like Africa faced with numerous challenges i.e. poverty, diseases, bad governance, corruption, youth unemployment etc. the media has a primary responsibility to among others- promote good governance and accountability, fight corruption, and serve as a platform to facilitate the inter-action between an informed, analytical and partaking citizenry and reactive elected officials.

But the question is what information the African media is disseminating and how educative it is to the larger populace? The last decades have witnessed positive development in the media landscape in Africa as illustrated by blossoming independent media accompanied with freedom of expression in many countries. The media has played important role on the continent by exposing corruption and ensuring free and fair elections in many countries among others. But considering the enormity of the problems the African continent is faced with, the current content and quality of the programmes of many media outfits need to be beefed up with more developmental, cultural and scientific issues.

AASU commends the African media professionals for their courage and commitments besides the difficult conditions in which they operate most of the time; notwithstanding they are significantly contributing in shaping the future of the continent by creating awareness among the citizenry and putting our leaders on their toes. In the same vein AASU urges them to put more emphasis on developmental, cultural and scientific matters in order to propel the continent on the path of sustainable development.

AASU calls on governments and public authorities around the globe to put a stop, in particular, to the latitude of causing harm to journalists by investigating and punishing those responsible for attacks on media professionals, and by taking the necessary precautions that make it possible for journalists to continue to provide us with the essential knowledge and information that flow from a free and independent press.

Long live World Press Day!
Awaah Fred
(Secretary General)

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