Free Press and Democracy!

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Over 100 events throughout the world were held on May 3 to celebrate freedom of the press. The theme this year is free press and democracy.

The United Nations General Assembly declared May 3 to be World Press Freedom Day or just World Press Dayobserved to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and marking the anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration.

Hailed as the fourth pillar of democracy, the press – its reporters, editors and photographers – have always risked their reputations and lives for the truth behind events. Such tasks require a degree of freedom which is guaranteed by the constitutions of democratic nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In 1993 the United Nations General Assembly declared May 3 as World Press Freedom Day. This declaration came after a recommendation made in 1991 at the twenty-sixth General Conference session of UNESCO. The declaration also came as a result of 1991 Windhoek Declaration; a statement which was produced by African journalists about press freedom, presented at a seminar held by UNESCO, which concluded on May 3.

The day is celebrated to ensure the protection and safety of the press in the face of attacks against its independence, to discuss journalistic ethics and to celebrate journalists who gave their lives in the pursuit of truth. There are ten nations – China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Eritrea, Djibouti, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and Cuba – where press freedom is severely limited. World Press Day reminds us that many publications and their editors and reporters are often prevented from doing their jobs, censored and banned. Many are imprisoned or even killed.

The theme for World Press Day 2021 is “Information as a Public Good.” It is especially significant for the press, which deals with information on a global scale, to effectively use and disseminate it to the world citizenry while empowering journalists.

The three topics to be highlighted at this year’s World Press Freedom Day 2021 Global Conference, as per UNESCO are:

  • Steps to ensure the economic viability of news media;
  • Mechanisms for ensuring transparency of Internet companies;
  • Enhanced Media and Information Literacy (MIL) capacities that enable people to recognize and value, as well as defend and demand, journalism as a vital part of information as a public good.

The anniversary was also commemorated in Lithuania, however even more significant to Lithuanians is May 7th. That day in 1904 marked the end of the  40-year repression of the Lithuanian press by Tsarist Russia. It is now celebrated as the day of Lithuanian free press, language and books.

After the revolution of 1863, the Tsarist regime began to enforce various repressive measures in Lithuania to uproot all and any nationalistic endeavours. Teaching was conducted in Russian, parish schools were closed, church services and religious activities were forbidden and Lithuanian books were not allowed to be published or distributed. Colonization of Lithuania by Russian immigrants was also implemented.

Paradoxically, those repressions brought about the rebirth of Lithuanian nationalism. The first Lithuanian newspapers Aušra (1883-1886) and Varpas (1889-1905) came to light, and the underground movement of book-smugglers became legendary.

With news from www.news18.com, alkas.lt