Freedom of Expression
In Canada, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, guarantees certain freedoms for everyone in Canada. Under Section 2 of the Charter, Canadians are guaranteed freedom of thought, belief and expression. Since the media are important means of communicating thoughts and ideas, the Charter also protects the rights of the press and other media to speak out. This, and the other freedoms guaranteed under Section 2, such as the freedom of religion and the freedom of association, form the basic activities of individual liberty. They are important because in a democratic society like Canada, people must be free to discuss matters of public policy, criticize governments and offer their own solutions to social problems.
The importance of promoting and safeguarding freedom of expression is also advanced internationally. Article 19 of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights includes the right to freedom of expression - including the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media - as a fundamental human right.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression was first appointed in April 1993. His mandate is to gather information on discrimination, threats or use of violence and harassment directed at individuals or professionals seeking to exercise or promote the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The Special Rapporteur reports to the UN on ways and means to promote and protect better the right to freedom of opinion and expression in all its manifestations. Documents related to the work of the Special Rapporteur can be found on the Web site of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
World Press Freedom Day
In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed May 3 as World Press Freedom Day. It celebrates fundamental press freedom around the world, and is an opportunity for countries to examine this freedom within their borders. In many countries, publications are censored, altered, shutdown or controlled. Journalists and editors are harassed, attacked and even murdered. More than 50 journalists were killed in 2001-2002 while covering violent conflicts. Often, such deaths are not accidents of war, but the deliberate targeting of journalists by those seeking to prevent media exposure. Over 100 journalists are currently imprisoned in various countries because of their work.
World Press Freedom Day is a chance to defend media from attacks on their independence, and to pay tribute to those journalists that have lost their lives for their profession. Events and promotions for World Press Freedom Day are overseen by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
World Press Freedom Prize
Established in 1997, the World Press Freedom Prize - $25,000 - goes to one outstanding journalist every year on the World Press Freedom Day.
The 2003 prize will be awarded to Amira Hass, the first and only Israeli journalist who has been living in and reporting on the Palestinian Occupied Territories. Her criticism of both Israeli and Palestinian authority has resulted in great pressure from both sides, but she continues to file compassionate stories about the hardships of people living in the region.
Freedom of Expression Organizations
PEN Canada : Founded in 1926, PEN Canada, a chapter of International PEN, defends freedom of expression as a cornerstone of democracy on the conviction that all citizens must be able to express themselves without hindrance on any matter and through any medium. PEN works to draw attention to the imprisonment and silencing of writers for writing the truth as they see it; the deliberate targeting and murdering of journalists because of their work being the most pronounced threat to freedom of expression. More information is available on PEN Canada.
Article 19 - The Global Campaign for Freedom of Expression : Named after Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this organization combats censorship and promotes freedom of expression and access to information all over the world. With partners in over 30 countries, Article 19 focuses its efforts on monitoring, lobbying, campaigning, publishing and litigating on behalf of freedom of expression wherever it is threatened. For more information about their ongoing campaigns and other work click here.
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