Press freedom and other civil liberties have declined globally over the last five years. The profession of journalist became one of the riskiest professions in the world. In some countries worrisome laws were introduced that limit media freedom. New threats are emanating from private entities that monopolize the media and decrease the pluralism of news and opinion.
Press freedom is a fundamental human right. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: "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". The Sana’a Declaration of 1996 -adopted by the UNESCO general conference- pleads for free, pluralistic and independent media in the Arab world.
Protecting freedom of expression and press freedom is a process without an end. Violation of these rights should never be accepted. Governments and societies have to be helped to move forward to spread a culture of freedom, transparency and accountability. Governments should provide, and reinforce where they exist, legal guarantees of freedom of expression. There is a huge paradox between the possibilities offered by the digital age –internet, satellite TV and mobile phone- and the challenges they pose to the safety of those who publicly disseminate information.
The MENA region is going through turbulent times. In this context the Doha Centre for Media Freedom has an extremely important role to play to strengthen press freedom and freedom of expression over the internet and other media across the region and the globe. At the same time we want to improve the safety of media professionals, further access to information, and to open new horizons for dialogue, sharing information and knowledge.
Director - Doha Centre for Media Freedom