by Timothy Balding, Director General, World Association of Newspapers,
the General Debate of the World Summit on the Information Society, Geneva,
of expression and the free flow of information are the very foundations
democratic societies, the societies which are best placed to achieve the
and peace which is the legitimate aspiration of all human beings.
of expression and the free flow of information are a fundamental pre-
of durable economic, political, social and cultural progress and
of expression and the free flow of information are powerful and
allies in the global fight against poverty, disease, corruption,
and illiteracy - and also international terrorism, which breeds and
in closed societies which outlaw open debate.
these assertions have now been fully embraced by the major inter-
organizations and are actively promoted by the leaders of, for
the United Nations and the World Bank.
Declaration you are about to sign here in Geneva also clearly affirms that
freedoms are central and crucial to the Information Society.
dozens of the governments which will adopt this text tomorrow,
and cynically persecute the men and women whose job it is to enable
to facilitate this free flow of information.
Thousands of journalists and
rights activists are each year arrested and imprisoned, frequently beaten
sometimes murdered, for trying to exercise their human right to free
expression. The technological challenge of bridging the
is not, I believe, the main issue. The
main issue is how we can bridge
political and moral divide between countries which accept democratic debate
those which repress it.
is largely in the poorest, least developed nations where this repression of
and opinion is most severe. In Eritrea, for example, where the
has eliminated the independent press by locking up all its
journalists. Or in Myanmar, or Iran, where hundreds of
newspapers have been
down, or Syria, or Cuba, or China, which regularly sends cyber-reporters
up to fifteen years in jail for calling for pluralism. The list goes on and
but I shall stop it there.
final word, however: The next phase of
this Summit will take place, as you
in Tunisia, a country that repeatedly violates its commitments to the
Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to respect
speech and press freedom, a country where censorship is a way of life and
journalists are harassed and jailed.
behalf of The Coalition of Press Freedom Organizations - the Committee to
Journalists, the Inter-American Press Association, the International
of Broadcasting, the International Press Institute, the North
Broadcasters Association, the World Association of Newspapers and the
Press Freedom Committee - I solemnly call upon the
organizers of the
to abandon plans to meet in Tunis unless Tunisia begins to respect human
especially those of freedom of expression and freedom of the press. If
second phase of this Summit goes ahead in the current environment in
it will bring this process into disrepute and completely undermine your
reaffirmation of the principles of free information and free