UNITED NATIONS. DPI OVERLOOKS ITS OWN FREE PRESS ROLE.

 

DPI OVERLOOKS ITS OWN FREE PRESS ROLE

15 May 2006

It appears that those currently in charge of the U.N. Department of Public Information (DPI) decided to give up its former pivotal role in defense of press freedom. Not only do they limit a commemoration of World Press Freedom Day -- which the Department itself helped to create -- to a ceremonial seminar, but, according to its own press release issued on the occasion dated 4 May 2006, its background review overlooks any role by that Department, willingly giving all the credit to UNESCO.

The undisputed fact is that UNESCO and DPI were partners in that venture. Initiated by Department head Therese Paquet Sevigny, that partnership took practical shape in the first UNESCO/DPI Seminar on Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press from 29 April to 3 May 1991. Both DPI and UNESCO shared the planning, fund-raising and political commitment. The actual proposal for World Press Freedom Day resulted from a follow-up meeting in Santiago, Chile, again in partnership between UNESCO and DPI. That Department's head at the time, Samir Sanbar, arranged to obtain a General Assembly resolution formalizing May 3 World Press Freedom Day.

Let's hope that when those transients leave within months, the Department of Public Information will resume its role in the forefront of the struggle for a free varied press and regain its courage in defending victimized journalists.