UNESCO on Thursday, observed the South Asian celebration of World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) 2019 in capital city Male', at Hotel Jen.
Organized in partnership with the Maldivian government, United Nations (UN), Addu Women's Association (AWA), Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) and Facebook, the event provided a platform for discourse in relation to challenges, threats and achievements concerning press freedoms in Maldives.
The global theme of WPFD 2019 is 'Media for Democracy - Journalism and elections in times of disinformation'.
The event was inaugurated by Minister of Communications, Science and Technology Maleeh Jamaal, Acting UN Resident Coordinator Dr Arvind Mathur, UNESCO's representative to Bhutan, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka, Eric Falt, AWA's founding member and Honorary Consul of Belgium Dr Mariyam Shakeela, Executive Committee member of Free Media Movement Dhaneshi Yatawara, and MDN's Senior Legal Officer Mushfiq Mohamed.
In his inaugural speech, Minister Maleeh declared that legal frameworks for cyber and social media platforms will be developed in the future.
Honorary Consul Dr Shakeela went over a brief overview of the baseline study conducted in collaboration with UNESCO and the South Asian Women's Network (SWAN). Titled 'Women for Change: Building A Gendered Media ' and encompassed nine South Asian countries.
"Very few females are seen in decision-making levels in media or even advertising agencies, but administrative roles are dominated by women. Working structures, norms and practices were also seen as gender biased and there were institutional and structural disadvantages for women's succession in media...", said Dr Shakeela.
In addition to celebrations, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) launched it's 'South Asia Press Freedom Report 2018-2019' during the event.
According to the report "In 2018, South Asia was declared by the IFJ as the most deadly region in the world for media workers.".
In reference to IFJ's declaration, UNESCO representative Falt, noted that 35 journalists were killed, one abducted, over 60 detained, 40 attacked, 15 threated and nearly 100 reported instances of internet shutdown had occurred between May 2017 and April, 2018, in the region.
"These deeply disturbing figures attest to the fact that much still needs to be done to ensure the safety of journalists and end impunity against crimes against journalists", said Falt.
Additionally, a panel discussion was held among media stakeholders. The panellists were the Executive Director of Bhutan Media Foundation (BMF) Needrup Zangpo, The Edition's Editor Rae Munavvar, State-owned Public Service Media (PSM)'s Managing Director Ali Khalid, Dhaneshi Yatawara, and PN Vasanti, member of UNESCO Media Freedom Experts Group in India.
During a short speech nearing the end of the occasion, President of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) Aminath Eenas, announced that HRCM would initiate and formulate guidelines for media organizations.
Honorary Consul of Sweden and PSM Board Member, Mariyam Waheeda acted as master of ceremonies for the event.
Approximately 100 national events around the world are expected to coincide with the main event on Friday, May 3, 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Commemorations of the day will seek to address challenges experienced by media in reference to elections, analyse damaging effects of fake news and disinformation, and explore the media’s potential for strengthening democracy.