The freedom of the press in the world and the conditions under which the profession of journalist is practiced, in particular during conflicts, is a priority for France. Moreover, it is behind the adoption, in 2006, of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1738 on the protection of journalists in armed conflicts.
Infringement of freedom of the press has increased in recent years. Today, more than 145 journalists are prisoners around the world. Since the beginning of the year, their will to fully pursue their fact-finding missions has cost some journalists their lives.
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen proclaims in article 11: “The free communication of thoughts and opinions is one of the most precious rights of man: any citizen thus may speak, write, print freely, save to respond to the abuse of this liberty, in the cases determined by the law.”
France enshrines the principle of freedom of the press in the law of 29 July 1881. The law provides for an administrative scheme specific to the written press, the definition of various offences (defamation, provocation to crimes and offences, etc.) aiming to institute a balance between freedom of speech and protection of persons, the establishment of a specific criminal liability system and the establishment of a specific procedural system.
The United Nations General Assembly institutes World Press Freedom Day in December 1993. The 19th World Press Freedom Day is being celebrated this year because we go back to 1991, the year of the seminar on the development of an independent and pluralistic African press organized in Windhoek, Namibia, which led to the adoption of the Windhoek Declaration on the promotion of independent and pluralistic media.
Creation of the UNESCO-Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, intended to honour a person, organization or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the defence and/or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, especially when this has been achieved in the face of danger. In 2007 for example, this prize was awarded posthumously to the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
On 23 December 2006, the United Nations Security Council adopts Resolution 1738 on the protection of journalists in armed conflicts. This resolution reasserts the need to prevent acts of violence against journalists and to try the perpetrators of such violence when it could not be prevented.
On 12 March 2008, the French association, Reporters Without Borders, launches the first World Internet Freedom of Speech Day. The operation aims to draw attention to cyber-dissidents who are currently behind bars “for having exercising their right of expression on the Internet”.