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World Press Freedom Day marked with call for protecting freedom of expression, independent journalism

By Rana Husseini - May 15,2022 - Last updated at May 15,2022

Speakers are seen during a panel session on the sidelines of an event conducted by UNESCO to commemorate World Press Freedom Day 2022 on Sunday (Photo courtesy of organisers)

AMMAN —  Minister of State for Media Affairs Faisal Shboul on Sunday said that the region needs more support to face wars and conflicts to boost freedoms and democracy.

“We realise that we need to exert every available effort to ensure that we are on the right track,” Shboul said.

Shboul’s remarks were made during an event conducted by UNESCO to commemorate World Press Freedom Day 2022 titled “Journalism Under Digital Siege”, which was held at The Space in Amman.

The one-day event saw the participation of local and international NGOs, diplomatic missions in Jordan and journalism students from various Jordanian universities.

Shboul praised UNESCO’s Media and Information Literacy world project, which proved “its importance over the years”.

“This project is extremely important and should be implemented worldwide to face the new reality in which the public has mixed up the overlap between media and social media,” the minister stressed.

The minister added that Jordan has completed the first phase in government schools and universities of media and information literacy teachers’ training.

“Some 550 high school teachers and 100 university educators benefited from this training,” according to the minister.

Shboul had asked the gathering to stand for a moment of silence in honour of slain Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed during an Israeli occupation forces raid in the West Bank on Wednesday.

The minister also crticised Israeli forces’ “attack” on participants in the funeral of Abu Akleh, saying it is “evidence of the violations practised by the occupation forces on the soul of occupied Palestine”.

The minister added that “we also commemorate today the Palestinian Nakbeh [catastrophe], whereby Israel established a state that celebrates the anniversary of its establishment from the diaspora while dispersing the people of Palestine and depriving them of establishing their state on their national soil”.

UNESCO, Shboul added, is a “witness to the Israelis who are always trying to falsify the human heritage in Palestine, as well as elsewhere”.

Also speaking during the event, Sweden’s Ambassador to Jordan Alexandra Rydmark said that freedom of expression, independent journalism and press freedom are key components for economic, social and democratic development.

“The free flow of ideas and opinions, as well as debate and critical examination create a wealth of ideas and drive innovation in any society,” Rydmark stressed.

The ambassador added that Sweden will continue to support human rights, freedom of speech and press in Jordan and the region.

Speaking during the events, journalist and editor-in-chief of Jo24.net Basil Okoor said that local journalists still suffer from “censorship and harassment”.

He also blamed the “international donors who turn a blind eye on many occasions on the violations and harassments committed by the government against local journalists”.

UNESCO Representative to Jordan Jeong Kim said that the Kingdom has made many international and regional commitments to safeguard the freedom and safety of journalists.

Unfortunately, Kim maintained, Jordan is also not exempted from the “world-wide erosion of press freedom”.

“Journalists continue to face more and more ongoing challenges, and like many other countries, Jordan is experiencing a dangerous increase in spyware, hacking, as well as difficulties in data safety,” Kim stressed.

The UN official added that Jordanian journalists deserve “a better deal than they currently have”, where many face poor working conditions as well as censorship and harassment.

“We are here today to remind ourselves, to continue to see journalists as the oxygen of democracy and agents of change and development,” Kim added.

Kim also paid tribute to the courage and dedication of journalists adding, “we mourn the brutal killing of a voice of truth and a respected and beloved friend and colleague to many of you in the room Abu Akleh”.

Meanwhile, ambassador Rydmark reiterated the EU statement condemning the killing of Abu Akleh last week and stressed the need for a thorough and independent investigation into her death.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 2,150 journalists and media workers have been killed over the past 30 years,  Kim said.

Nine out of 10 cases, Kim maintained, the killers go unpunished, according to the UNESCO Observatory of killed journalists.

“Impunity leads to more killings and is often a symptom of worsening conflict and the breakdown of law and judicial systems,” Kim stressed. 

Every year, May 3 marks a day of celebration of the fundamental principles of press freedom and to evaluate press freedom around the world.

UNESCO leads the worldwide celebration by identifying the global theme and organising the main event in a different part of the world each year.

In Jordan, the UNESCO Amman office has been organising the annual World Press Freedom Day festivities in partnership with key media organisations.

 

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