The Windhoek Declaration: press freedom thirty years later

Thirty years ago this week, African publishers and journalists gathered in Windhoek, Namibia to draft a statement proclaiming the need for an independent, pluralistic and free press as an essential component of democratic and economic development.

World Press Freedom Day, May 3rd, is a day to honour journalists all over the world for their work in helping us make sense of what is happening around us. Journalists hold governments accountable, ask necessary questions, point out injustices, confirm facts, and help keep us safe. The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights confirms the importance of freedom of the press. 

The Internet and social media offer incredible opportunities to stay informed and connect with others but have also led to a rise in misinformation and hate speech, the upending of media business models, and the concentration of power in the hands of just a few private companies. The Edelman Trust Barometer 2021 reveals Canadians' declining trust in elected officials, business leaders, and the media.  

In Canada, a press release by Réseau Presse (previously the Association de la presse francophone) calls quality journalism “a vaccine against disinformation” and speaks of the importance of independent and local community media in protecting democracy by providing quality information on local issues. In the release, Presse president Francis Sonier referred to Independent, transparent and free-thinking media as “our best allies in combating disinformation”.

In Nelson, BC, our community radio station, Kootenay Co-op Radio, plays a crucial role in keeping my community informed, connected, and safe. 

I hope that you have a trusted local source of news where you live too. 

Catherine Fisher, blogger

Image: Participants of the UNESCO workshop on African media in Windhoek, Namibia, 1991