World Press Day is born pg. 22

By: Allan Wolper Rising out of UNESCO's controversial history

Journalists around the world celebrate World Press Day next week as they fight to preserve the right to cover conflicts like the one in Yugoslavia.
The Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) recently criticized NATO and the United States for bombing the Serbian communications network.
"The bombing puts all journalists working in Yugoslavia at risk," says CPJ, an international organization that rarely criticizes United States free press violations.
The hope for an international free press is encompassed in Article 19 ? sometimes referred to as The First Amendment for the world. The General Assembly of the United Nations, a group of nations often seen as anathema to free speech and press rights, passed Article 19 on Dec. 10, 1948 as part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression," the General Assembly noted. "This right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers."
The U.N., however, has a hard job convincing anyone that it believes in press freedoms. The United Nations, Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) tried in 1976 to create an Orwellian-like New World Information and Communication Order. Under the proposal, reporters would be licensed and required to follow a code of conduct that would be enforced by world governments, a position contrary to the ideals of Article 19.
The U.S. reacted by withdrawing from UNESCO, which backed off its plan under intense criticism from most free world countries. Ironically, some Western European countries that found UNESCO's new world order so offensive discussed in 1995 setting up an international ombudsman with powers to punish wayward press people.
UNESCO regained some much-needed stature in 1991 when it sponsored the Windhoek conference, in Namibia, to promote an independent and pluralistic press in Africa. Seventy journalists from 35 countries passed the Windhoek Declaration on May 3, calling for a free press in Africa.
The seminar in Windhoek was held three years after W. Scott Stanley, then editor of American Press International, a U.S. news agency, was arrested when he arrived in the city to testify at his defamation trial. Stanley, former editor of The Conservative Digest, was charged with libel after he criticized the South African commission charged with overseeing Namibia elections. His articles were published in The Windhoek Advertiser and Allgemeine Zeitung, two Namibian newspapers.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press protested and Stanley was allowed to leave the country.
In 1992, UNESCO passed a resolution calling for a world press day and won praise from The World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC) that had been formed to fight UNESCO's freedomless ideas.
"After 15 years, we feel good about what we have been able to accomplish regarding the attitude prevailing at UNESCO," says Harold Anderson, who was WPFC chairman at the time.
UNESCO voted to hold its annual press day on the May 3 announcement of the Windhoek Declaration.
Still, the Committee To Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports that many of the General Assembly members who claim to support press freedoms routinely violate them. The committee's complaints are found in their annual report, Attacks on the Press in 1998.
"Their stories are not just a record of the state of press freedom but also a tribute to colleagues who share our profession, but not our protections," says Ann Cooper, executive director of CPJ.
Franco Mayor, director general of UNESCO, when it began its annual salute of a free press, says: "Journalism has become an increasingly dangerous profession, yet this has not deterred men and women from doing their part in the search for truth, the sharing of information, the building of peace and democracy."
World Press Freedom Day became a truly focused event after The Inter American Press Association (IAPA)? the press in this hemisphere ? agreed in 1995 to endorse the May 3 date favored by UNESCO and most of the rest of the world. Until then, the IAPA had held it's press freedom day on June 7.
The Newspaper Association of America (NAA), the American Society of Newspaper Editors, and the NAA Foundation, The International Press Institute, and the National Newspaper Association, all are involved in the effort.
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