Freedom of expression and media essential to new global roadmap for people: UN Secretary General

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By Naeem Chaudhry

BAKU, Nov 17 (APP): Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon Thursday said freedom of expression and the media were essential to the new global roadmap for the people of the planet.
In his message to the 5th News Agencies World Congress and read out on the occasion, Ban Ki-moon said traditional and new media are essential to the rule of law, good governance and democracy. United Nations Member States reaffirmed this principle in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted last year as a blueprint for peace, prosperity, dignity and opportunity for all, he added.
Freedom of expression and the media are essential to this new global roadmap for people and the planet. News agencies have an extremely important role in disseminating timely, quality information, he observed.
This is both a means and a goal of positive change. Shifts in technology and business models have opened new avenues for freedom of expression around the world, he stated continuing, ever more people are able to access, produce and share information. This exchange of news and ideas, within and across national borders, has tremendous potential for good.
On the other hand, the spread of misinformation, especially hate speech, presents grave risks to peace and progress. The news media have a particular responsibility to counter this by promoting tolerance and understanding and presenting the truth fearlessly.
The international community also has a responsibility to support free media and stand firm against forces that threaten inclusive and open societies, he said.
These threats range from censorship and the blocking of digital information to physical intimidation against journalists, he said adding, together they undermine freedom of expression, a fundamental human right that is vital for truly sustainable development.
In the past decade, at least 827 journalists have been killed in the line of duty – many, but by no means all, working in conflict zones. It is essential that their safety is preserved and respect for their profession observed.
Many more reporters for traditional and new media around the world have been threatened, detained and imprisoned for doing their essential work. Too often, such obstruction occurs with Government acceptance or collusion, and the perpetrators are able to act with impunity.
He commended the organizers, and the President and Government of Azerbaijan, for convening the fifth News Agencies World Congress in Baku.