Ahead of the 2021 World Press Freedom Day (WPFD), Namibia and UNESCO hosted a kick-off event for the handover of the baton from the 2020 host country of this year’s Global Conference, the Netherlands. The 2021 commemoration coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration for the Development of a Free, Independent and Pluralistic Press, that will be celebrated in conjunction with WPFD from 1 to 3 May 2021 in the Namibian capital.
UNESCO Deputy Director-General Xing Qu opened the handover ceremony from UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, also as interim Assistant-Director-General for Communication and Information. He expressed gratitude to the Netherlands for their preparation of the joint celebration of WPFD and the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, which will take place on 9 and 10 December 2020 in an innovative digital format due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He continued by expressing thanks to the government of Namibia.
“World Press Freedom Day is coming home,” said Hans Wesseling, Ambassador of the Netherlands to UNESCO, while he handed over the baton. He underlined that The Netherlands would be pleased to share the lessons learned from holding this year’s global event on a digital platform and to support the 2021 WPFD.
Ambassador Albertus Aochamub, Permanent Delegate of Namibia to UNESCO, underlined that Namibia was delighted to take over the baton, highlighting that the WPFD event is not a once-off activity and that press freedom is an issue that people should engage with continuously. He encouraged governments, civil societies and media practitioners to form a partnership to ensure that press freedom is protected and defended. He expressed his sincere hope that “the world remains free and free for all”.
When the line passed back to Namibia, Minister Peya Mushelenga, from the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, expressed that in the context of COVID-19, “We will celebrate this significant and historic occasion appropriately, under the new normal. Namibia stands ready to host this auspicious event.”
The handover and kick-off ceremony held at the Government communication Centre in Windhoek on 8 October 2020 brought together Jennelly Matundu, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation; Sen PANG, UN Resident Coordinator to Namibia; as well as other representatives from the government, the media and Namibian civil society.
The Head of Office and UNESCO Representative to Namibia, Djaffar Moussa-Elkadhum, noted that significant steps had already been made in the preparation of WPFD 2021. “Namibia is opening again its arms to welcome media professionals and journalists from around the world, not only from Africa, to celebrate in Windhoek the World Press Freedom Day,” he said.
The event closed after a vote of thanks from Frank Steffen, Chairperson of the Editors’ Forum of Namibia.
In 1993, the UN General Assembly, following a recommendation adopted at the twenty-sixth session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991, proclaimed 3 May as World Press Freedom Day. It is a day 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.