World Press Freedom Day

The United Nations General Assembly declared May 3 to be World Press Freedom Day or just World Press Day to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and marking the anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration, a statement of free press principles put together by African newspaper journalists in Windhoek in 1991.

World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of UNESCO’s General Conference. Since then, 3 May, the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek is celebrated worldwide as World Press Freedom Day.

May 3 acts as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom. It is also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics. It is an opportunity to:

  • celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom;
  • assess the state of press freedom throughout the world;
  • defend the media from attacks on their independence;
  • and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

UNESCO marks World Press Freedom Day by conferring the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize on a deserving individual, organisation or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the defence and/or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, especially when this has been achieved in the face of danger.

Created in 1997, the prize is awarded on the recommendation of an independent jury of 14 news professionals. Names are submitted by regional and international non-governmental organisations working for press freedom, and by UNESCO member states.

The Prize is named in honour of Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian journalist who was assassinated in front of the offices of his newspaper, El Espectador, in Bogotá, on 17 December 1986. Cano’s writings had offended Colombia’s powerful drug barons.

UNESCO also marks World Press Freedom Day each year by bringing together media professionals, press freedom organisations and UN agencies to assess the state of press freedom worldwide and discuss solutions for addressing challenges. Organized annually since 1993, each conference is centred on a theme related to press freedom, including good governance, media coverage of terrorism, impunity and the role of media in post-conflict countries.


  • 1998 – Press Freedom is a Cornerstone of Human Rights.
  • 1999 – Turbulent Eras: Generational Perspectives on Freedom of the Press.
  • 2000 – Reporting the News in a Dangerous World: The Role of the Media in conflict settlement, Reconciliation and peace-building
  • 2001 – Combating racism and promoting diversity: the role of free press.” Held jointly with the commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration. The occasion was marked by the signing of the African Charter on Broadcasting
  • 2002 – Covering the War on Global Terrorism
  • 2003 – The Media and Armed Conflict
  • 2004 – Who decides how much information?
  • 2005 – Media and Good Governance
  • 2006 – The media as drivers of change
  • 2007 – The United Nations and the freedom of press
  • 2008 – Celebrating the fundamental principles of press freedom
  • 2009 – Dialogue, mutual understanding and reconciliation
  • 2010 – Freedom of information: the right to know
  • 2011 – 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers
  • 2012 – New Voices: Media Freedom Helping to Transform Societies
  • 2013 – Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media
  • 2014 – Media Freedom for a Better Future: Shaping the post-2015 Development Agenda
  • 2015 – Let Journalism Thrive! Towards Better Reporting, Gender Equality, & Media Safety in the Digital Age
  • 2016 – Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms
  • 2017 – Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies
  • 2018 – Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and the Rule of Law
  • 2019 – Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections In Times of Disinformation
  • 2020 – Journalism without Fear or Favour

World Press Freedom Day 2020

On May 3, national and local celebrations for World Press Freedom Day will take place around the world, some in the form of online debates and workshops.

UNESCO is launching a global campaign on media and social media channels, with a focus on “Journalism without Fear or Favour” in an increasingly complex media landscape. Join them on May 3rd for an interactive free livestreamed event to celebrate World Press Freedom Day 2020: ” Difference Day Conference 2020.” Also, on May 4th through the 6th, there will be several events including: High-level Dialogue on Press Freedom and Tackling Disinformation in the COVID-19 context, webinars, and online discussions via Facebook Live, YouTube, and Microsoft teams, amongst other digital platforms. Details are available on the UNESCO site.

The sub-themes for this year are:

  • Safety of Women and Men Journalists and Media Workers
  • Independent and Professional Journalism free from Political and Commercial Influence
  • Gender Equality in All Aspect of the Media




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