UNITED NATIONS UNESCO : SEMINAR ON PROMOTING INDEPENDENT AND PLURALISTIC ARAB MEDIA 2
Sana’a, Yemen, 7-11 January 1996. 2
I. INTRODUCTION 2
ORGANIZATION OF THE WORK 3
Opening Ceremony 3
Election of Officers 5
II Plenary session 1: The situation of the media in the Arab world: the issue of independence and pluralism 6
III Plenary session 2: Public Service Media 9
IV. Plenary session 3: Legal, Cultural and Political Frameworks for a Free and Pluralistic Media: The Issue of Censorship and Self-censorship 12
V. Plenary session 4: Training of Media Professionals 15
IV Plenary session 5: Conclusion 19
REPORTS OF THE WORKING GROUPS 21
Report of Working Group A: Women and the Media in the Arab States 21
Members of the Working Group 22
Report of Working Group B: Press Freedom Monitoring and 23
Members Of The Working Group 24
Report Of Working Group C : Professional Organizations 27
Members Of The Working Group 28
Report Of Working Group D: Strengthening Professional Journalists’ Training 29
Members Of The Working Group 30
THE SANA’A DECLARATION 31
ON PROMOTING INDEPENDENT AND PLURALISTIC ARAB MEDIA 31
Programme of the Seminar 35
List of UNESCO Background papers. 39
LIST OF PARTICIPANTS 40
UNITED NATIONS UNESCO : SEMINAR ON PROMOTING INDEPENDENT AND PLURALISTIC ARAB MEDIA
Sana’a, Yemen, 7-11 January 1996.
1. The Seminar on Promoting Independent and Pluralistic Arab Media held in Sana'a, Yemen, 7 - 11 January 1996, was organized jointly by the United Nations, through its Department of Public Information (UN-DPI), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) through its Communication Division, with the support of the Government of the Republic of Yemen, represented by its Permanent Delegation to UNESCO and the National Commission for UNESCO.
2. In order to guide the preparations, ensure a broad participation of professionals from the region and advise on operational details, a Consultative Committee met on three occasions at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris and once in Sana'a, on the eve of the Seminar. The Committee was composed of representatives from UN-DPI, UNESCO, the International Federation of Newspaper Publishers (FIEJ), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the International Organization of Journalists (IOJ), the International Press Institute (IPI), Reporters Sans Frontières, the World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC), Article XIX, the Committee to Protect Journalists; as well as representatives of donor partners: European Union, the French Government, the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation. In addition, the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) provided financial support to the Seminar.
3. This Seminar is the fourth of a series of regional seminars. Previous ones were held in Windhoek, Namibia in 1991 for the African region; in Almaty, Kazakstan for the Asian Region in 1992; and in Santiago, Chile for the Latin American and Caribbean Region in 1994. As was the case with preceding ones, this Seminar is a follow-up to resolution 26 c/4.3 on promotion of press freedom in the world, approved by the General Conference of UNESCO at its twenty-sixth session in 1991, which referred to the Windhoek Seminar as a catalyst in the process of encouraging press freedom, independence and pluralism in Africa, and invited the Director-General of UNESCO to extend to other regions of the world the action taken so far in Africa to promote the independence and pluralism of the media.
4. The present Seminar also reflects the spirit of the United Nations General Assembly resolution 45/76A, "information in the service of humanity", adopted 11 December 1990 and is in accord with UNESCO's new communication strategy adopted by the General Conference at its twenty-fifth session in 1989.
5. At the invitation of the Government of the Republic of Yemen, the Seminar was held at the Hotel Hadda, in Sana'a. The programme of the Seminar and list of background papers are included in Annexes 1 and 2 respectively. One hundred and eighteen participants from 17 countries (including 78 from Yemen) attended the Seminar in their personal capacity. There were also 39 observers from media organizations and Member States of the United Nations and UNESCO, representatives of media institutions, and members of the Consultative Committee (see Annex 3).
ORGANIZATION OF THE WORK
6. In addition to the opening and closing ceremonies, the Seminar was organized in four plenary sessions and four working groups.
7. The first plenary session focused on the issue of media independence and pluralism in the Arab world; the second discussed public service media; the third addressed the legal, cultural and political frameworks for free and pluralistic media, focusing in particular on the question of censorship and self-censorship; the fourth covered the training of media professionals. A final session reviewed the conclusions of the Seminar, including the outcome of the four working groups that focused on practical recommendations. At this session, the final report and the Declaration of Sana’a were adopted.
8. The Seminar was opened in Sana'a on 7 January 1996. The participants observed one minute of silence in memory of journalists killed in the exercise of their profession, many of them, both men and women, in the Arab region.
9. Mr. Samir Sanbar, Assistant Secretary-General for Public Information, United Nations, opened the Seminar on behalf of the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Boutros Boutros Ghali, who attaches the utmost importance to this regional seminar and to press freedom as a key determinant in political decision-making. The Seminar coincides with the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations and the beginning of a new era of its history in which it reaffirms its strong commitment and support to fundamental human rights and, in particular, to press freedom and pluralism and to the dignity of journalists and writers.
10. In today's information world, Mr. Sanbar continued, the right to information and freedom of expression are basic prerequisites for socioeconomic development and political freedom. Free and responsible media provide for effective dialogue among nations and people. Free thought and exchanges of ideas increase one's capability in the struggle against injustice and corruption. However, human rights and dignity cannot be guaranteed, he said, without freedom to publish through independent and pluralistic media.
11. Continuing his speech Mr. Sanbar said that a close look at the situation of the press in the Arab region shows that there is an urgent need for a dialogue such as that furnished by the Seminar at which issues concerning press freedom could be openly discussed. The Arab region is going through a decisive period in its economic, social and cultural development to which the media contribute through courageous opinions and freethinking.
12. Referring to the assassination of more than seventy journalists in the exercise of their profession last year, of whom more than thirty were from Algeria, Mr. Sanbar stressed that attacks on the media and the killing of journalists should not go unpunished.
13. Mr. Henrikas Yushkiavitshus, Assistant Director-General for Communication, Information and Informatics, UNESCO, greeted the participants on behalf of the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr. Federico Mayor, and conveyed his best wishes for the success of the Seminar.
14. Referring to the long history of the Arab press, which saw the establishment of newspapers at a very early stage under private initiative, he highlighted its role as a principal vehicle for information and education. While this long-standing function gives cause for optimism, Mr. Yushkiavitshus continued, it is disturbing to note that current practices tend to limit freedom of expression, a principle enshrined in most, if not all, constitutions of the Arab region. In this respect, he recalled that all Member States of UNESCO, including those of the Arab region, have approved the Organization's new communication strategy of 1989 which promotes the free flow of ideas by word and image, and the wider, better balanced dissemination of information without any obstacle to the freedom of expression. This strategy corresponds to UNESCO's ideals, to its commitment to universal principles of dignity, freedom, justice, equality and solidarity, as laid down in the Preamble of the UNESCO Constitution.
15. Similarly, all Member States have also unanimously endorsed the Declaration of Windhoek of 1991 and further supported the concept that "a free, pluralistic and independent press is an essential component of any democratic society". Strong, independent media in the Arab region is one of the preconditions of the socioeconomic development and political growth, Mr. Yushkiavitshus concluded.
16. Speaking on behalf of the participating journalists, Mr. Mahfuz Al Ansari (Editor-in-Chief Al Jamhouriya, Egypt) referred to the worldwide changes that occurred in the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of the Cold War. The collapse of communist societies through the sole power of words and the free expression of ideas gave way to a new order based on democracy and free expression. In developing countries, the new situation requires and imposes an enlargement of the concept of independence to encompass the means of expression, the media.
17. A number of challenges, however, must be faced. Democracy is a process and cannot be established and anchored by mere will power. Democratic principles need to be instilled in the minds of people through education and evolving cultures, as well as through daily practice, learning to listen to and accept others' viewpoints and opinions.
18. Furthermore, Mr. Al Ansari continued, how can independent media compete with government-supported institutions? This issue becomes more acute when seen together with the rapid development of Internet and information highways. In this context, governments should help equip all media with modern technologies and develop their human resources and technical capabilities through adequate training, without interfering in their editorial independence and freedom of thought and expression. In conclusion, Mr. Al Ansari urged that International organizations and aid agencies should also play an important role in this respect by modernizing infrastructures for the media, so that they can truly play their educational, social and cultural roles.
19. Addressing the Seminar, His Excellency Mr. Abdul-Aziz Abdul-Gani, Prime Minister of the Republic of Yemen, highlighted the efforts made by his country in the media field, based on the belief that journalists play a crucial role in mobilizing people's energies and potential in favour of the development process and a better future. The Republic of Yemen has opted for democracy, media pluralism and independence. He further said that freedom of expression is enshrined in the Constitution and national laws. More than 200 newspapers today operate under law, without censorship. The Government has supported the development of broadcasting and training of media specialists by setting up appropriate training institutions. The Prime Minister further stressed that professional ethics constitute the necessary counterpart to press freedom.
20. He added that the rapid expansion of communication technologies is widening the gap between developed and developing countries, which may well be left behind if the international community does not pay special attention to this matter. In this context, the Prime Minister paid tribute to the efforts undertaken within the framework of UNESCO's International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) and reiterated the full support of his country to this programme.
21. Before closing, the Prime Minister referred to the dispute between his country and Eritrea in relation to the Great Huneish Island. He stated that "Since its establishment, the Republic of Yemen has adopted a clear policy for solving border problems with its neighbours, based on dialogue and negotiation, on the refusal to resort to any type of violence and threats to use force, and on the respect for international law....". He continued: "the Republic of Yemen, conscious of its high responsibilities towards security and peace in the Red Sea and on the basis of its deep understanding of the interests of countries and people of the Horn of Africa, will remain committed to the policy defined by His Excellency, the President of the Republic, to handle the emerging situation by keeping the door open to any initiative, mediation and to valued efforts to reach a peaceful solution of the problem, while preserving our country's legitimate rights and national sovereignty through all legitimate ways and means.....".