More than 2,000 journalists, politicians, representatives of civil society organizations, academia and the judiciary, have gathered in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa for the celebration of this year’s World Freedom Day.
The three-day event is providing the platform to discuss challenges faced by the media in elections.
They are also examining the safety of journalists, how to effectively tackle fake news and the critical role the media could play, to help heal wounds, promote reconciliation and peace.
The programme is being jointly organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Government of Ethiopia.
Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde, at the opening ceremony, spoke of the strong progress her country was making in terms of the promotion of press freedom.
She said various reforms had been introduced to ensure freedom of expression and information.
Ethiopia, until last, year ranked low on the World Press Freedom Index but all that has now changed.
“We all know that our track record in the past was far from reassuring but we have taken major steps to make things better now – released political activists and journalists from detention, lifted the ban on some media outlets and changed some of the ill-fitting media laws.”
She added that they were excited to host this year’s global celebration and said this clearly demonstrated that they were getting it right.
Dr. Vera Sogwe, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, encouraged more women to go into journalism.
Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General, Jeremy Hunt, United Kingdom (UK’s) Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, and Thomas Kwesi Quartey, the Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission, took turns to remind the media to ensure fair coverage of elections.
World Freedom Day is held every year to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.
“Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation” is the theme chosen for this year’s programme.