On the eve of World Press Freedom Day, celebrated annually on May 3, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday called on all Governments, societies and individuals to actively defend this "fundamental right" for the sake of development, democracy and good governance.
"Freedom of expression, independent media and universal access to knowledge will fortify our efforts to achieve lasting results for people and the planet," he said in opening remarks at a meeting on (Media freedom for a better future: shaping the post-2015 development agenda).
"Each year on World Press Freedom Day, we reaffirm our commitment to the fundamental freedom to receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers, enshrined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," he said.
However, he said with regret, "every day of the year sees this right under assault, to the detriment of us all." He noted that "journalists are singled out for speaking or writing uncomfortable truths - kidnapped, detained, beaten and sometimes murdered." Such treatment is "completely unacceptable" in a world ever more reliant on global news outlets and the journalists who serve them," he stressed.
He also expressed regret that journalists are targeted while covering events in conflict areas, even though they are easily identified and protected against attacks.
He noted that last year alone, 70 journalists were killed, many caught in the cross-fire of armed hostilities, 14 more have suffered the same fate during the first four months of this year, and since 1992, well over 1,000 journalists have been killed - nearly one per week.
He added that Last year, 211 journalists were being held in prison, and that some 456 journalist have been forced into exile since 2008.
"These are alarming figures. Behind each statistic stands a man or a woman simply going about their lawful business. There must be no impunity for those who target journalists for violence, intimidation or distorted uses of legal procedures to disrupt or impede their work," he stressed.
General Assembly President John Ashe also said during the same the meeting that freedom of expression and freedom of the press are "fundamental rights" that form an essential pillar of democratic societies.
"When journalists are able to report freely, they support informed citizen participation in political and social processes and promote civic engagement," he added.
This year's celebration of World Press Freedom Day is the first following the Assembly's adoption in December 2013, for the first time, of a resolution condemning all attacks and violence against journalists and media workers, and proclaiming November 2nd as the International Day to end Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.