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Crackdowns against Journalists Must End: UN Chief

UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres said that Journalists go to the most dangerous places to give voice to the voiceless yet they still suffer character assassination, sexual assault, detention, injuries and even death.

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Crackdowns against journalists must end in order to promote a free press that advances peace and justice for all, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres has stated in a message to mark World Press Freedom Day.

Antonio Guterres added that Journalists go to the most dangerous places to give voice to the voiceless yet they still suffer character assassination, sexual assault, detention, injuries and even death.  He added that when journalists are protected, their words and pictures have the power to change the world for the better.

‘‘I call for an end to all crackdowns against journalists... When we protect journalists, their words and pictures can change our world,' Guterres said in a forty-four minute video released on the eve of World Press Freedom Day.

The day is marked every year on May 3, to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom; to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.

The international day, proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993, serves as an occasion to inform citizens of violations of press freedom and reflect on the challenges of censorship, harassment and murder that journalists all over the world encounter in execution of their mandate.

‘‘We need leaders to defend the free media, this is crucial to counter misinformation and you need everyone to stand for our right to truth.

//Cue in; "Media workers suffer…

Cue out……justice for all."//

Meanwhile, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural (UNESCO) said in a statement, that

“free, independent and pluralistic media has never been so important to empower individual women and men, strengthen good governance and the rule of law, and take forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The agency is also tasked with defending press freedom and the safety of journalists, and is spearheading the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

“Far too often, murder remains the most tragic form of censorship,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in her message on the Day, noting that 102 journalists were killed in 2016.

She noted that “facing a crisis of audience identity, journalism stands before a horizon where old challenges are merging with new threats,” which include the Internet's blurring of the lines between advertising and editorial material, businesses pushing for profits and private censorship.

The message comes a day after a report; the 2016 Press Freedom Index, named the Uganda Police as the leading violator of rights of journalists in Uganda. The report titled "Tough Times, Political Intolerance Stifles Media", shows that Police committed 83 of the 135 media violations recorded in 2016.

The report lists violations as physical attacks, harassment, torture, injuries and looking up journalists in gazetted areas among others. Other forms include threats, political pressure, unfair dismissal and arbitrary suspension from work.

Events to mark World Press Freedom Day in Uganda will include a procession through Kampala's streets and a public debate on free expression and access to information organised by the African Centre for Media Excellence.

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