3rd May 2013

Safe to Speak

Today we mark World Press Freedom Day.

World Press Freedom Day 2013
World Press Freedom Day 2013

Twenty years ago, 3 May was declared a day to celebrate Press Freedom. Since then, the day has done much to raise awareness about the value of press freedom and freedom of speech.

The theme this year is ‘Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in all Media.’ The focus will be on the safety of journalists, combating impunity for crimes against freedom of expression, and securing a free and open Internet as the precondition for safety online. The theme encompasses digital communication tools that played an instrumental role in the Arab spring two years ago.

I believe that protection should be in place for all those brave enough to raise their concerns. Journalists, bloggers, media organizations offer a crucial function that allows the public to hear different perspectives which can lead to discussions and – over time –  solutions. A wide variety of independent news outlets, independent of political bias and free to reflect different viewpoints in society, will help bolster democracy.

Our late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said:

“I love argument. I love debate. I don’t expect anyone just to sit there and agree with me – that’s not their job”.

This is a testament that governments need not fear being challenged by their citizens and should respond to legitimate aspirations with reform not repression. They should encourage debate and dialogue and be ready to answer to any reasonable questions.

For the past two months, the Ethiopian government has held a series of consultations with local media to discuss existing problems and ways forward. This is a good step that will hopefully result in an increase in the capacity of the local media and a wider range of information from which citizens can make informed decisions.

The media can play an extremely positive role in Ethiopia’s future. But it will require effort by both the private sector and government for it to reach its full potential.

As an Ambassador and a blogger, I want to pay tribute to those journalists and bloggers who have risked their safety for the sake of the public’s access to news and information.

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