Hanif Al Qasim stresses importance of freedom of expression

DUBAI, — Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, has underlined the importance of press freedom and expression, being major components of human rights.

In his message to celebrate this year’s World Press Freedom Day, under the slogan, “Brave Minds at Critical Times, The Role of the Media in Building Just, Peaceful and Inclusive Societies”, he stated that Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights confirmed the freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of access to information. This was the time when the press first became the fourth international authority for enabling societies to achieve greater degrees of transparency, control and good governance.

Al Qasim focussed on two the key issues, including the need to protect journalists and media professionals against assault, murder, imprisonment and forced disappearances. He highlighted statistics from the Committee to Protect Journalists, stating that 1, 200 journalists have lost their lives since 1992, either by direct killing or through exposure to risks while covering wars and conflicts.

He stressed that journalists in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and especially Libya are now being subjected to arrests, kidnappings and killings, which led to a state of terror and intimidation that prevented the world from learning the tragic realities in these countries, which are experiencing civil wars that threaten to destroy societies and states.

Al Qasim also stressed the need for the press and all forms of media to address information leaks through social media outlets, especially in the Arab world, after the protest movements that started in 2011 that led to regime change, the dismantling of societies and the resulting acts of violence and terrorism, especially against different religions. This led to the spread of hatred, extremism, sectarianism and the rejection of others.

“Since social media sites and some press and media outlets are not subject to law, regulations and the ethics of the profession, they have opened the doors for terrorist organisations to promote their hatred and extremism,” Al Qasim added. He called for activating the Press and Media Charter of Honour in all countries, especially in Arab countries.

He praised the UAE’s efforts in this regard, adding that it presents a global model to follow for building a legal infrastructure to combat the hate speech by issuing a law in 2015 to challenge hatred, discrimination and to criminalise the hate speech. It also drafted a law to criminalise insults against people and the authorities on social media sites. Al Qassim called on countries from around the world, especially the Arab countries, to follow the UAE’s model.

The United Nations General Assembly declared May 3 to be World Press Freedom Day to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and marking the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek, a statement of free press principles put together by African newspaper journalists in 1991.

Source: Emirates News Agency