Monday, February 28, 2011

World Press Freedom Day 2011: In Retrospect?

Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian communications theorist Educator,  Writer and Social Reformer, once said that the new media are not  bridges between man and nature; they are nature.

New media, which is a broad term that refers to the incorporation of  traditional media with the interactive power of computer technologies  and most importantly the internet, has not only redefined the way we  communicate but has become part and parcel of our day-to-day lives.

Owing to the tremendous impact that new media has on today?s society,  this year?s World Press Freedom Day (WPFD), that will be officially  commemorated in Washington D.C. with a United Nations Educational,  Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) conference from 1st ? 
3rd May, has adopted the theme ?21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New  Barriers?.

This theme is important because new media, especially computer-enabled  consumer devices, have not only empowered people around the world to  voice their opinions on both their circumstances and world events, but  has allowed for the exchange of information in environments that are  sometimes hostile to such exercises of individuals? right to freedom  of expression.

The 18-day Tahir Square Revolution in Egypt which culminated in the  ouster of President Hosni Mubarak on 11th February, is a clear example  of the monumentous impact that new media has on today?s society. This  is because social media sites were used to organize the early stages  of this historic revolution that is otherwise known as the 18-day  Facebook uprising.

Consequently, Facebook, Twitter, and the internet itself continue to  mould the face of the revolution in the Middle East and North Africa.  This is because, not only have these social networking sites been used  to organize protests matches, but the internet itself is playing a  huge role in disseminating the horrors and atrocities being committed  in these countries through the eyes of ordinary citizens capturing  these events as they unfold.

This is of even greater importance in Libya, a country in which the  western media has been banned from reporting, thus essentially closing  off the country from any other media coverage apart from the state  owned media as security forces increase their presence on the streets  of Tripoli, mere days after Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi vowed to  cling to power or die a "martyr."

However, before we commemorate this year?s WPFD?s important theme, it  is vital to look back at last year?s theme, which was ?Freedom of  Information?, because, and as stated by UNESCO?s Director General,  even though the lack of this freedom that has exponentially propelled  the usage of new media, Freedom of Information is central to upholding  other basic rights for furthering transparency, justice and development.

Irina Bokova, UNESCO?s Director General, emphasized the importance of  Freedom of Information by explaining that, together with Freedom of  Expression, this freedom underpins democracy as an institution.

Watch Irina Bokova?s full interview below.;d=1

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