Wednesday, February 9, 2011

World Press Freedom Day 2011 and the Windhoek Declaration: 20 Years later

2011 will mark 20 years after the Windhoek Declaration on press freedom. Barely a year after gaining political independence, the Republic of Namibia hosted one of the most important UNESCO conferences on media freedom not only in Africa, but around the world.

The conference produced the internationally renowned document, the Windhoek Declaration on Press Freedom, which in 1992 was adopted by UNESCO and United Nations General Assembly thereby institutionalising May, 3 on the global calendar as ‘World Press Freedom Day’.

The Declaration was subsequently adopted by all SADC & AU heads of State. At the time of the Declaration in 1991, press freedom was a farfetched idea for many African countries in that all media was under the sole ownership and heavy control of the state.

The Africa envisaged in the Windhoek Declaration of 1991 is still a far cry from the repressive media environments characteristic in several African countries. But two decades later, a lot has changed. In many African countries now, including Namibia, press freedom and/or freedom of expression are constitutional rights and the media market is diverse, liberalized and growing.

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