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Elaph in the United Nations


 Elaph in the United Nations

On 21 June 2016, the UNESCO Liaison Office in Geneva and the London-based Elaph online Newspaper will offer a reception to diplomatic corps and representatives of different entities of the United Nations, civil society organisations and academic institutions based in Geneva. The purpose of this event is to commemorate the 15º Anniversary of Elaph since its creation and to celebrate the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022). 

The International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures is to be understood as a commitment for addressing this pressing need to take into account and clearly demonstrate new articulations between cultural diversity and universal values. The “rapprochement of cultures” implies that international security and social inclusion cannot be attained sustainably without a commitment to such principles as human dignity, conviviality and solidarity which are the corner stones of human coexistence, in all faiths and secular ideologies.

On 22 June 2016, the UNESCO Liaison Office in Geneva and the Permanent Mission of Finland to the United Nations at Geneva, with support and partnership with Elaph, will organize a panel discussion on the theme of “Freedom of expression and countering hate speech on Internet to prevent youth radicalization” in the context of the 32º session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. 

Under the sound moderation of Ms Imogen Foulkes, BBC Geneva Correspondent, the event will be open by Mr. Abdulaziz Almuzaini, Director of the UNESCO Liaison Office in Geneva; Ambassador Päivi Kairamo, Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations and International Organisations in Geneva and Ms. Mona Rishmawi, Chief of the Rule of Law, Equality and Non Discrimination Branch, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The panelists specially invited for this occasion are Mr Guy Berger, Director of the Division of Freedom of Expression and Media Development, UNESCO; Ambassador Christian Guillermet Fernandez, Vice Director-General for Foreign Policy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica; Mr Amir Taheri, Journalist and Professor Priyankar Upadhyaya, Malaviya Centre for Peace Research, Banaras Hindu University, India.

The panel will resonant the presentation of the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression (Doc. A/HRC/32/38) to the thirty-two session of the Human Rights Council. 

On 27 March 2014, the Human Rights Council adopted the resolution 25/2 by which it recognized that the effective exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression is essential for the enjoyment of other human rights and freedoms. It also affirmed that freedom of expression constitutes a fundamental pillar for building a democratic society and strengthening democracy, bearing in mind that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. 

It will also contribute to the implementation of UN Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, notably its action lines relating to human rights, youth, dialogue, strategic communications, Internet and social media. 

The panelists will be asked to elaborate on the relationship between freedom of expression and countering hate speech on Internet to prevent youth radicalization, which is critical for the prevention of violence extremism. Focus will be also put on the role and contribution media in the prevention of violent extremism in the world. 

Additionally, the event will recall that thousands of young activists and artists are fighting back against violent extremism online through their music, art, film, comics and humour, and that they deserve the support of the international community, as set out by the UNSG’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism. 

Notably, the panel will underscore the recommendation made by Secretary-General in his Plan of Action, calling on States to “protect journalists, who play a crucial role in democratic societies, by ensuring the prompt and thorough investigation of threats to their safety, and encourage journalists to work together to voluntarily develop media training and industry codes of conduct which foster tolerance and respect”.

Speakers will also recall that World Freedom Press Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a Recommendation adopted at the 26th Session of UNESCO's General Conference in 1991. 

This General Assembly resolution proclaiming the World Freedom Press Day should be interpreted in light of the Resolution 29 on Condemnation of violence against journalists adopted by UNESCO General Conference 29th Session on 12 November 1997 by which considered that “over the past ten years an increasing number of journalists have been assassinated for exercising their profession, a development denounced by various international organizations, and that the majority of these crimes still go unpunished”.

In the context of the shared objectives to support the freedom of the press and freedom of expression, UNESCO and the Government of Finland co-hosted the 2016 World Press Freedom Day's main event and the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize Ceremony in Helsinki, Finland, from 2-4 May 2016. 

Finally, the event shall recall the Finlandia Declaration on “Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms - This Is Your Right!”, adopted on 3 May 2016 in Helsinki, noted “the new United Nations (UN) 2030 Development Agenda, and in particular Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 to promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies, which includes key points relevant to press freedom, access to information, safety of journalists and the rule of law” and underscored “… that universal access to information and to knowledge is central to the UN’s World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) process, which reaffirmed freedom of expression and universal access to information as part of the ambition of achieving inclusive Knowledge Societies”.

As set also out by the Finlandia Declaration, “the right to information is also vital to developing a free, independent and pluralistic media and essential to strengthening its capacity to counter hate speech, promote intercultural understanding, and fight radicalization and violent extremism”. 

David Fernandez Puyana, PhD, LLM and MA


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