• When it is safe to speak, the whole world benefits / Auke Lootsma (Blog)

    03 May 2013

    Journalist in Rwanda (photo: Archives/UNDP in Rwanda)

    Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a cornerstone of good governance, sustainable development, and lasting peace and security.

    The theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day, “Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media”, highlights the need for action to upholding the right of journalists to carry out their vital work.

    From traditional media platforms such as radio, print and television, to newer and more and more popular social media, blogs and citizen-led reporting, journalists are increasingly at risk. Over the past decade, more than 600 journalists have been killed – at least 120 in the past year alone. Hundreds more have been detained.

    In response, the United Nations system has established a Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. The plan aims to raise awareness and to support practical steps to create a free and safe working environment for journalists.  Action must encompass both traditional media and the digital world, where news is increasingly produced and consumed. Bloggers, citizen reporters and social media producers, as well as their sources, face increasing threats to their safety. In addition to physical dangers, they are being targeted with psychological and emotional violence through cyber-attacks, data breaches, intimidation, undue surveillance and invasions of privacy.

    As we mark World Press Freedom Day,  UNDP is moving forward to do its utmost to enable all journalists in all media to do their jobs.  According to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon: “When it is safe to speak, the whole world benefits”.

    In Rwanda, UNDP has been instrumental in supporting the media sector reforms as part of its good governance programmes in a bid to enhance access to information, freedom of expression and media professionalism.  Recent legislative and structural media reforms have placed Rwanda among countries striving to ensure media freedom in the world.  The laws are meant to ensure a free and professional press and guarantee access to information.

    By passing the Self-Regulation Law, the Government has shifted the responsibilities of regulation of the media to practitioners. Another cornerstone registered in the media industry is the proposed Rwanda Broadcasting Agency, a public broadcaster which will replace the state run Bureau of Information and News.