Vienna, 3 May 2013 – "The first adoption of a resolution on the safety of journalists in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, which was initiated by Austria, demonstrates the significance of free media and the great importance we attach to the safety of media representatives", Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said on the World Press Freedom Day.
Austria uses its membership in the UN Human Rights Council (until 2014) among other channels to underline the relevance of this issue. "Free media are indispensable for the protection of human rights and the promotion of democracy. More and more often journalists are falling victims to targeted attacks. However, only in rare cases are those responsible for these – frequently very serious – attacks held accountable for their crimes. To protect the freedom of the press, resolute action of governments to prosecute the perpetrators is needed", the Foreign Minister continued.
Never before have there been more options and opportunities to obtain information than today. "The word is mightier than the sword. Journalists, bloggers, civil journalists, web activists, but also the average Internet user are all employing peaceful means to promote more transparency, freedom, dignity and empowerment, which makes them front-line defenders of freedom and human rights. Any lack of scrutiny and independent reporting will lead to disinformation, propaganda and sedition gaining the upper hand. All of us – and governments in particular – are therefore obligated to support the fundamental right of freedom of the press by suiting action to the word and to contribute in the global efforts of protecting journalists", Spindelegger said.
In this context, Vice-Chancellor Spindelegger praised the exemplary and incessant of commitment of imprisoned Ethiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu to the freedom of press. The journalist has been awarded this year's UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Award. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation UNESCO emphasised the Alemu's "exceptional courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression". Before the award-winning journalist was imprisoned, the focus of her in-depth investigative reporting had been on political and social issues, such as commitment for women's rights and the fight against poverty.
"We are fully aware of the challenges and the rocky road ahead of us. But we – governments and representatives of the media – owe our commitment to all the endangered journalists worldwide, the courageous and honourable legacy of those who have lost their lives practicing their profession, and to all the people on all continents who have a fundamental right to receive information", the Vice-Chancellor concluded.
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