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Agencies
May 9, 2011
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States urged not to use licencing as tool to curb media

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Agencies
May 9, 2011

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WASHINGTON: As the World Press Freedom Day was celebrated on Tuesday, participants of a series of events held in the US capital to mark the day adopted the Washington Declaration calling upon the Unesco member states “to ensure an environment in which media a pluralistic and editorially independent of political interference”.
The declaration condemned “the intimidation and attacks, including arrests and murders inflicted upon journalists, media personnel and bloggers’ for trying to seek and provide information and ideas to the people.”
The condemnation comes at a time when freedom of the press and speech is under attack from both governments and powerful mafias in a number of countries, including Pakistan where 13 journalists had been killed in as many months until January 2011. Geo News reporter Wali Khan Babar was among the victims.
Emphasising that access to information through all forms of media and digital platforms is critical for an informed electorate, the Washington Declaration noted with concern that “this access has been illegitimately and abusively restricted by some governments”.
It also urged the Unesco members to “refrain from imposing illegitimate and abusive limits on free expression on the Internet ñ be it blogs, email or social media networks.”
The declaration, adopted after three days of brainstorming sessions at the National Press Club and Newseum in Washington, also called upon the states to recognise and ensure that “the same principles of freedom of expression apply equally to the Internet and other new information technologies, as they apply to traditional forms of media”.
The Unesco members were also called upon ìto refrain from licensing as a requirement for the professional practice of journalismî ñ a call that came as an embarrassment to the Pakistani government that has used licensing as a tool to financially punish the Geo Television Network for exposing corruption and bad

governance.
Earlier, US President Barack Obama said in his remarks on World Press Freedom Day that “it is also a day for us to sound the alarm about restrictions on the media as well as the threats, violence or imprisonment of many of its members and their families because of their work”.
“Last year was a bad one for the freedom of the press worldwide. While people gained greater access than ever before to information through the Internet, cell phones and other forms of connective technologies, governments like China, Ethiopia, Iran, and Venezuela curtailed freedom of expression by limiting full access to and use of these technologies. Moreover, more media workers were killed for their work last year than any year in recent history.”

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