Abuja – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday decried the incessant assaults on journalists for speaking or writing “uncomfortable truths’’.
Ban, in his message to mark the 2014 World Press Freedom Day, which was made available by the UN National Information Officer, Oluseyi Soremekun, said the development was unacceptable.
He reminded governments at all level that the function of the media as watchdog was to hold governments, businesses and others accountable.
“Each year on World Press Freedom Day, we reaffirm our commitment to the fundamental freedom to receive and impart information and ideas through any media.
“This is regardless of frontiers enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, yet every day of the year sees this right under assault to the detriment of us all.
“Journalists are singled out for speaking or writing uncomfortable truths, kidnapped, detained, beaten and sometimes murdered.
“Such treatment is completely unacceptable in a world ever more reliant on global news outlets and the journalists who serve them,’’ Ban noted.
He stated that in conflict areas, journalists often wore blue uniforms and helmets so that they could be easily identified and protected against attack.
According to him, we know from the UN’s own peacekeeping operations, that the colour blue provides no guarantee of safety.
In 2013, Ban said that 70 journalists were killed while many more were caught in the cross-fire of armed hostilities, adding that 14 more had suffered the same fate this year.
“Last year, 211 journalists were being held in prison, some 456 journalists have been forced into exile since 2008, while since 1992, well over 1,000 journalists have been killed, nearly one per week.
“These are alarming figures, behind each statistics stands a man or a woman simply going about their lawful business.
“There must be no impunity for those who target journalists for violence, intimidation or distorted use of legal procedures to disrupt or impede their work.
“Media freedoms must continue to be at the centre of our work to promote security, dignity and prosperity for all,’’ he said.
Ban said that free media, whether traditional or new, was indispensable for development, democracy and good governance.
He said that social media and mobile technologies offered new tools for accelerating citizen participation and economic and social progress.
“On this World Press Freedom Day, I call on all governments, societies and individuals to actively defend this fundamental right as critical factors in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and advancing the post-2015 development agenda.
“Freedom of expression, independent media and universal access to knowledge, will fortify our efforts to achieve lasting results for people and the planet,’’ he said.
NAN reports that the World Press Freedom Day is marked globally on May 3, while some UN partners marked the Day on May 6. (NAN)