Message from the Director-General of UNESCO

World Press Freedom Day on 3 May is of special importance this year as we are also celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The fundamental freedoms are very vulnerable, and none more so than freedom of expression and freedom of the press, which are constantly being curtailed by censorship, imprisonment and sometimes death. Journalists are the living embodiment of these freedoms and we must stand alongside them, protect them and support them with all the strength and resources we can muster.

This year the list of violations of every kind - including some 50 journalists murdered in the course of their work - makes it only too clear, once again, that no region of the world is spared. These violations are the work of governments, but also of organised crime and extremist groups wishing to intimidate a profession that could stand in their way.

I call on journalists working for the written press, radio and television, their professional organisations and governments and ordinary people throughout the world to form a united front against arbitrary imprisonment, the threat of physical violence and all other attempts to muzzle the media. We must publish far and wide Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which reads: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers".

UNESCO will take action whenever action is necessary, since any reverse for freedom of expression and freedom of the press is a reverse for democracy. It will place itself at the disposal of each side when conflicts arise, press governments to investigate serious violations of press freedom and help to fund observatories to monitor and assist the free exercise of the profession of journalism. A people needs to be well-informed in order to assume its destiny, participate in the democratic functioning of its institutions and consolidate peace.

One of UNESCO's main tasks is to promote the free circulation of ideas by word and image throughout the world, and it is even more necessary now than it was 50 years ago. Let us join forces to help societies based on knowledge, freedom and justice to spring up everywhere.

Federico Mayor
UNESCO Director-General