Hii at UN Commemoration of World Press Freedom Day

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In the midst of the busy events and negotiations of CSD-19, we take a moment to look at the large span of human rights that we must constantly strive for as a society. May 4th is recognized as World Press Freedom Day, and celebrates the struggle for the freedom of expression of all people across the globe. The Human Impacts Institute (Hii) attended a United Nations commemorative event, co-sponsored by UNESCO, today that was hosted to celebrate the ideals of free press.

In opening statements by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, a focus was drawn on the changing forces of “new media” such as social websites and cell phone technologies. He remarked on the importance of these outlets, “being used creatively, especially by young people, to spark change in their societies.” Showing the power that public, civil society, and youth populations have over their own destinies, social mediums create a platform for debate where important issues can be determined by all. Panelist Gwen Lister, a Namibian journalist, agrees with this sentiment, as she declared the media to be an entire “development sector in its own right.” The ideas of all of the event’s fifteen speakers addressed included the great significance that the rights to and freedom of expression have in progressing societies to better futures.

The struggle for a free press is not easy, however, and it is an ideal that is threatened all around the world today. With a reading of the names journalists who have given their lives for the cause this year and a commemorative moment of silence, those who are abused for voicing their beliefs were not forgotten. Guest Thierry Taponier, the brother of captured French journalist Stéphane Taponier, stressed the need for reporting on the complexity of humankind, even in the face of danger.

The power of the social media revolution and the resulting greater connectivity of our world in changing its future are particularly relevant for our mission of sustainability. Documenting, sharing, blogging, photographing, tweeting, and discussing our goals for improving the world will inspire others and help to strengthen our cause. Today we, especially the young people of the world, have an incredible opportunity to not only be a vital part of the environmental movement but to easily capture and broadcast history as it happens. By using our voices for the expression of our ideals, and to fight for these same rights for all, we can affect lasting change on the world that we share together.

By Kate Offerdahl, 2011 Human Impacts Institute Environmental Leadership Intern

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