Statement Attributable to the Spokesperson for the
High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
on UNAOC’s May 3 Event
New York – 3 May 2018
Since we have been receiving queries from journalists regarding the event planned for today May 3, 2018, entitled “From News Literacy to ‘Newsgames’: Conversations Celebrating World Press Freedom Day”, we would like to clarify that we did not cancel our May 3 event as alleged, but instead decided to postpone it. The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) is currently working actively to secure a conference room at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, as well as coordinating with the same panelists regarding the new date. We remain fully committed to press freedom and using it responsibly.
We had issued a statement to that end yesterday, May 2nd, that was circulated to the media explaining that the initial date and time for the aforementioned event conflicted with a high-level event hosted by UNESCO and DPI commemorating World Press Freedom Day, with the participation of the Secretary-General, as well as the President of the General Assembly. Subsequently, the number of registrations for UNAOC’s panel was lower than expected, with several RSVPs deferred by the participants themselves at the last minute.
Upon reviewing the video that the News Literacy Project (NLP) submitted only one day before the event, we saw that it was unbalanced. We, therefore, asked NLP to either make a comprehensive presentation of all countries where press freedom is limited, or to remove reference to specific countries that had been singled out in their report, to ensure objectivity and a more comprehensive representation.
Speakers and participants at UNAOC events always express themselves freely, with absolutely no direction from us in terms of content. However, when we receive video material in advance of an event, we do reserve the right to make suggestions, especially if we feel that the content is unbalanced.
Media is one of the main pillars of UNAOC, and the organization fully subscribes to and defends press freedom and responsibility, as indicated in the report of the High-Level Group, which serves as the roadmap and foundation for the organization:
(Point 6.25) “Press freedom and responsibility: Journalism in many countries is subject to a lack of press freedom; where such freedom exists, market forces and nationalistic sentiments often result in the irresponsible practice of these freedoms. Objective reporting and the presentation of a diversity of perspectives are needed to prevent stereotypes and misrepresentations from blocking the flow of reliable information.”
Since its inception, UNAOC has actively advocated for press freedom and press responsibility. A recent example is the #SpreadNoHate initiative, a series of seminars around the world on the topic of hate speech in the media and freedom of expression. Speakers and participants in the series have included journalists and experts from The New York Times, the Ethical Journalism Network, Columbia University’s Global Freedom of Expression Center, the International Press Institute, the Anti-Defamation League, and the International Center for Journalists, among many others, and the series has allowed for genuine conversations and concrete recommendations.