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The Windhoek Declaration is an influential statement on the principles of press freedom put together by African newspaper journalists in the Namibian capital. The UN subsequently declared that every May 3, the date of its adoption, would be commemorated as World Press Freedom Day.

The Declaration was issued at a conference organized by UNESCO held from 29 April to 3 May 1991 on promoting an independent and pluralistic African Press. The conference was organised in light of the constant pressure and even violence faced by media professionals working in Africa.

The statement calls for a free, independent, pluralistic media worldwide, emphasizing that a free press is essential to democracy and a fundamental human right. It was an influential document, inspiring similar media freedom statements around the globe.

The Windhoek Declaration’s three central elements include:

  • Media Freedom – the legal environment in which journalists and the news media operate.
  • Pluralism – The types and numbers of media outlets available in a society, as well as economic ownership and control.
  • Independence – The autonomy of journalists from outside political and commercial interference.

The 1991 Windhoek Declaration largely focused on the print sector, since independent broadcasting was rare. But on its tenth anniversary, a new document was adopted addressing broadcasting issues, the African Charter on Broadcasting.

Since its adoption, a series of similar declarations have been adopted around the world, and the Declaration is considered an affirmation of the international community’s commitment to freedom of the press.

Now, a quarter century after those journalists put out their call for press freedom, a lot has changed for the better in Africa. Still, there are still many obstacles to be overcome before the continent really reaches those goals envisioned back in 1991.

Read the entire Declaration here or download a free Declaration poster on the #WHK website.