Critical Minds, Critical Times: UNESCO World Press Freedom Day

Critical Minds for Critical Times: The media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies is the theme of UNESCO’s main celebration of this year’s World Press Freedom Day, May 3rd. The event will take place in Jakarta, Indonesia, from May 1-4.


The program of the four-day conference has been designed to raise awareness of the importance of free and fact based journalism in promoting peace and justice, and supporting the efficiency, accountability and inclusiveness of institutions, in line with the Sixteenth United Nations Sustainable Development Goal. The event is organized with the Government of Indonesia and the Indonesian Press Council.

“SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOAL 16:Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.” United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division of Sustainable Development MORE

The May 3 celebration will be opened by Jusuf Kalla, Vice President of the Republic of Indonesia, and Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO. It will feature a plenary session on Quality journalism: a public good for just, peaceful and inclusive societies and six parallel sessions on subjects spanning media and information as a bulwark against hate speech, inclusiveness and gender equality, and violent extremism. A specific session will be dedicated to Press Freedom in Southeast Asia.

In the evening of May 3 Ms Bokova will award the 2017 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize to Dawit Isaak, the imprisoned Eritrean-born journalist who will be represented by his daughter, Bethelem Isaak, during a ceremony that will be hosted by Joko Widodo, the President of Indonesia.


“Dawit Isaak (born 28 October 1964) is a Swedish-Eritrean playwright, journalist and writer, who has been held in prison in Eritrea since 2001 without trial and is considered a traitor by the Eritrean government. Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience and has called for his immediate and unconditional release. For years, he was the only Swedish citizen held as a prisoner of conscience. He is now joined by the Swedish citizen and publicist Gui Minhai who was abducted by Chinese agents from Thailand in October 2015 and has been held prisoner in China since that time.” Wikipedia MORE

Dawit Isaak story, Free Dawit


The morning of May 4 will be dedicated to a second plenary session entitled Spotlight on investigative journalism: Perspectives from Southeast Asia and beyond. It will be followed by six parallel sessions on subjects including the impact of fake news on journalism, journalists’ safety and internet universality.

Artistic freedom, a principle enshrined in UNESCO’s Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, will be the focus of three sessions on May 2 and 4.

Notable speakers to address the conference will include José Ramos-Horta, Former President of Timor-Leste and 1996 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Richard Gingras, Vice President of News at Google, and Oscar Cantu Murguia, editor of Norte, the Mexican newspaper that had to close down operations this month following the killing of one of its journalists.

The main concerns and principles expressed during the four-day conference will be reflected in a declaration, the Jakarta Declaration, that participants are expected to adopt at the close of the event.

Also in Jakarta on May 3 and 4, Hong Kong Baptist University will host a conference about academic research into issues pertaining to the safety of journalists with participants from many countries.

Some thirty partners are contributing to World Press Freedom Day 2017 in Jakarta with events that will feature training sessions, workshops and roundtable discussions and are expected to draw more than 1,200 participants.

Approximately eighty other Press Freedom events are being organized around the world this year and leading news organizations including Al Jazeera, El Pais and Rappler will host dedicated blogs and feature special content for World Press Freedom Day. An awareness-campaign has been launched with the Cartooning for Peace Network( link is external) to raise visibility on the importance of freedom of expression through a series of press cartoons.

– except where indicated, post is courtesy of UNESCO

A Madwoman, A Madonna, A Medusa – poem



What’s it to me? …
A knotted and nasty old poet of introverted time
wearing five-dollar sweats
dressing in black on black like a fly
with silver earrings tinkling softly in the winter breeze
What’s it to me? …

A Madwoman, a Madonna, a Medusa
Traipsing neighborhood streets, city parks and country lanes
Nibbling on sharp yellow cheese and glossy red apples
Sitting down on some wayward curb to sigh in wonder at
noisy birds and children, wizened old men, whiskered grandmothers
Dogs walking their humans by the side of the road
Feral cats scratching out a living of pigeon stuffed with stale bread

Muttering, muttering, whispering, watching, writing
Writing long poems and short about what it was to be us
through clocked days trapped in pointless, punctilious youth
Enjoying now the wild, gnarly randomness of life
and the music of our dusty blue souls jingling as we walk …
What’s it to me? What’s it to this so lately untamable me?

© 2013, poem and illustration, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved