Every year, May 3rd is a date which celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom; to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.

3 May was proclaimed World Press Freedom Day the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a Recommendation adopted at the twenty-sixth session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991.

It serves as an occasion to inform citizens of violations of press freedom – a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered.

It is a date to encourage and develop initiatives in favour of press freedom, and to assess the state of press freedom worldwide.

It serves as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom and is also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics. Just as importantly, World Press Freedom Day is a day of support for media which are targets for the restraint, or abolition, of press freedom. It is also a day of remembrance for those journalists who lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.

UNESCO promotes freedom of expression and freedom of the press as a basic human right

UNESCO promotes freedom of expression and freedom of the press as a basic human right, through lobbying and monitoring activities. It highlights media independence and pluralism as fundamental to the process of democracy by providing advisory services on media legislation and by making governments, parliamentarians and other decision-makers aware of the need to guarantee free expression.

Other major UNESCO activities in this field include the proclamation in 1993 by the United Nations General Assembly of a World Press Freedom Day to be celebrated on May 3rd; the establishment of an advisory group on press freedom which includes media professionals from all parts of the world; the establishment in 1997 of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.

UNESCO supports independent media in zones of conflict to enable them to play an active role in conflict prevention and resolution and the transition towards a culture of peace.

20th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration

United Nations, New York, 4 May 2011

A special event is planned for 4 May at United Nations headquarters in New York to mark the 20th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration. Adopted in 1991 after a conference held in Windhoek (Namibia) on the development of a free African press, this declaration emphasizes the importance of an independent press for the development and preservation of democracy and economic development. Two years later, the UN General Assembly established World Press Freedom Day.

Windhoek, 4 May 2011

This anniversary will be celebrated in Windhoek with a regional conference to review the future of the media in Africa. A publication, “So this is media freedom? 20 years after the Windhoek Declaration on press freedom”, analysing two decades of media freedom in Africa, will be launched.

Cano Prize

  • About the Cano Prize
  • Jury
  • Bio of Current Award Winner
  • Bios of Past Award Winners

Previous Celebrations

World Press Freedom Day 2010
Brisbane, Australia
Freedom of Information: the Right to Know

World Press Freedom Day 2009
Doha, Qatar
Media, dialogue and mutual understanding

World Press Freedom Day 2008
Maputo, Mozambique
Freedom of Expression, Access to Information and Empowerment of People

World Press Freedom Day 2007
Medellin, Colombia
Press Freedom, Safety of Journalists and Impunity

World Press Freedom Day 2006
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Media, Development and Poverty Eradication

World Press Freedom Day 2005
Dakar, Senegal
Media and Good Governance

World Press Freedom Day 2004
Belgrade, Serbia
Media in Conflict and Post-Conflict Zones and in Countries in Transition

World Press Freedom Day 2003
Kingston, Jamaica