The UN and the Media Commemorate World Press Freedom Day In Beirut
UNESCO’s Regional Office in Beirut, in coordination with the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon (UNSCOL), organized today on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day a ceremony and panel discussions under the theme of “Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and the Rule of Law.”
Lebanon’s Minister of Information Melhem Riachi recalled in an opening statement how in Arabic the term “journalist” also meant “liberator.” He said journalists have to first free themselves from any financial, political or other pressures before they can liberate others. Riachi called for the media’s support for his efforts to introduce reforms to the laws relevant to the existing editors’ syndicate that would allow for the establishment of a new media syndicate that safeguards all rights of journalists in Lebanon.
Acting UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Pernille Kardel praised the role that the Lebanese media has played for over a century in setting the country apart in terms of freedom of expression and access to information. Ms. Kardel said “the media that can play its role within the law without fear of reprisals is key to a flourishing democracy. Laws that protect independent journalism, freedom of expression and the right to information need to be adopted, implemented and enforced,” she said. “Empowering the media in turn means empowering the State and its institutions because the media plays a crucial role in building transparent societies and holding those in power accountable,” the Acting UN Special Coordinator added.
In turn, a statement read out on behalf of UNESCO’s Director in Lebanon Hamad El-Hamami said freedom of expression is an essential human right on which all other civil freedoms are built. Hamami underscored UNESCO’s role in protecting and reinforcing freedom of expression through traditional and new social media.
The opening ceremony was followed by a discussion with journalist and President of SKeyes foundation Gisele Khoury on “the status of media freedoms in Lebanon” and two panel discussions first on “The justice system, supporting free and safe journalism” with President of Justicia Foundation, Paul Morcos and Scarlett Haddad, a journalist and political analyst and second on “Freedom of Expression on the Internet: Improving self-regulation,” with Mohamed Najm, Executive Director of the Social Media Exchange Organization, Attorney Nizar Saghiyeh, founder of Legal Agenda and blogger Gino Reaideh.