World Press Freedom Day: The ultimate FAQ

IFEX Report

What is World Press Freedom Day?

World Press Freedom Day, celebrated yearly on 3 May, is a day to celebrate the fundamental human right of press freedom, weigh the state of press freedom around the world, and pay tribute to the journalists, editors and publishers who have lost their lives for doing their job.

How did it come about?

May 3 was proclaimed World Press Freedom Day by the UN General Assembly in 1993 following arecommendation adopted at UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991.

The day was inspired by the Windhoek Declaration, which was adopted in 1991 at a UNESCO seminar in Windhoek, Namibia. The statement promotes an independent and pluralistic press in Africa in the face of years of political violence and authoritarianism on the continent.

The Windhoek Declaration has been viewed as widely influential as the first in a series of such declarations around the world. The date of the declaration’s adoption, 3 May, was subsequently declared as World Press Freedom Day.

What’s IFEX doing?

We have created a special website, available in English, French and Spanish (and Arabic coming soon!), showcasing exactly how our members around the world are commemorating World Press Freedom Day, and how you can get involved in your country.

Our site also offers a full range of resources and materials by IFEX members, some of which you can download for free and republish yourself. Many members use the occasion to unveil their annual reports. Find out which countries are the most dangerous for journalists, who are the enemies of press freedom worldwide, and how your country ranks.

I hear there’s a prize!

The UNESCO/Cano award is conferred every World Press Freedom Day on an individual or group that defends and promotes free expression, often at great personal risk.

This year’s winner is Eynulla Fatullayev, an Azerbaijani journalist and press freedom advocate who spent four years in jail on trumped-up charges.

Created in 1997, the US$25,000 prize is awarded on the recommendation of an independent jury of 14 news professionals. Regional and international non-governmental organisations working for press freedom – cue IFEX members – and UNESCO member states submit nominations.

The prize is named in honour of Guillermo Cano, the Colombian journalist who was murdered in front of his office in 1986 after denouncing drug barons in his country.

Where is the official UNESCO event this year?

Journalists and other press freedom advocates will be converging at Karthago Le Palace Hotel, in Tunis, Tunisia, on 3-5 May. The theme this year is “New Voices: Media Freedom Helping to Transform Societies”, inspired by the political changes – particularly in the Middle East and North Africa – in which various media, including Facebook and Twitter, played a vital part.

More on UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day 2012, as well as an archive of official events and themes in previous years, is available here.

At the event, be sure to watch out for new materials from the IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group (IFEX-TMG), which will be launching an anthology of free expression in Tunisia, a training manual on online campaigning tools, as well as a multimedia freedom of expression campaign on 4 May. These publications will be available in Arabic, with English and French coming later.

What can I do?

Take part in the festivities! Check out IFEX’s event listings to see if there’s anything happening around you. We’ll continue to post activities when we hear of them.

In the lead up to 3 May and on the day itself, use the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day logo, available here, as your Facebook or Twitter profile or post it on your wall.

And get up to speed on the issues by visiting our site, and sharing it with your friends!


A Timorese Forest Struggle: How far would you go to protect your forest?

By By Larry Lohmann and Dinar Rani Setiawan
World Rainforest Movement Bulletin

The story begins with a forest of the kind known in the local Celebic language as kio, used to provide wood and food for guests of the community. In times past, the kio was a source of deer, pigs, wild cows, firewood, rope and other goods, and boasted many large hardwood forest trees. Five clans prominent in the community (which in recent times has been subdivided into several administrative villages with different names) enjoyed common rights to the forest, including the Nabuasa, from which the community’s raja or chief always comes.

In 1982 an integrated livestock project supported by the Australian government got approval from both the provincial livestock office and community leaders for 25 years of activities on land that included the forest. Leucaena leucocephala trees were planted on some of the land for cattle food, 14 rain-fed ponds were dug, and a contract was drawn up with local villagers. In return for being given a cow, each participating household would pledge to give 1 ½ calves to the Australian business, which would then distribute them to other villagers in order to build up a local herd.

In 1987, however, the Australian project shut up shop, and the contract reverted to the local government, which began to sell the calves instead of putting them back into the project. The project’s ponds fell into disrepair, with only two today able to serve as water sources for people and cows, and after 1990 the cattle population began to decline.

In 2003, some of the officials who had inherited the project decided they wanted their own fields on the project’s land. They hatched a scheme through which they would ask villagers to prepare parcels of land for cropping in return for the promise of cows. Soon a stream of villagers were visiting officials, bearing traditional adat offerings – fabrics, cash, chickens, pigs, sheep – in order to acquire cows. Some households could even get two cows in successive years by presenting enough adatofferings to the officials. As many as 200 cows per year were distributed in this way.

By the end of 2003, some 21 hectares of land had been cleared through such deals. The officials pledged that the land would be replanted to Leucana to feed the cows, but no trees appeared. At the same time, the regency-level forestry office undertook a ‘forest rehabilitation’ project on 150 ha of the project’s land. Then, in 2006, regency forestry office staff arrived, announcing another rehabilitation project. Villagers – mostly from outside the Pollo community – were paid to clear still more of the kio forest. Among the tree species cut down were Pterocarpus indicus, Sterculia foetida, Ceiba pentandra, tamarind and acacia.

An additional 450 additional hectares of forest had now disappeared, and the impacts began to be felt. One outcome of paticular concern to the villagers centered on a set of springs that had appeared in 1999, which, strangely enough, flowed only during the dry season, making possible 50 additional hectares of wet-rice cultivation. With deforestation, these springs dried up.

In 2008, the situation worsened when GERHAN, a project of the National Forest and Land Rehabilitation Programme, working with the regency forestry office, embarked on another ‘forest rehabilitation’ scheme in Pollo. Loath to lose any more forest, Pollo’s raja and four amafs (deputyrajas), gave their consent to the plan only on condition that it was carried out on degraded land. But by June 2008 GERHAN was cutting another 450 hectares of good forest adjoining a local road to make way for new hardwood trees. As before, fires were set to clear logged sites after the big trees had been taken away. With so much forest having disappeared, many local people had had enough.

After visiting the regency government and assembly, both of whose representatives promised to investigate, 100 Pollo villagers filed a complaint of forest destruction with the regency-level police, following up with a trip to the regency’s foresty office and GERHAN headquarters.

After three months of silence, the villagers then traveled to Kupang, the capital of East Nusa Tenggara province, taking their grievance to the provincial government and assembly there and making sure to take away with them a copy of the complaint of illegal logging they filed with the provincial police.

By December 2008 still nothing had happened. At a community meeting, the raja ordered seven of Pollo’s young men to go to the Presidential Palace in Jakarta to see what they could do about the situation.

Vowing that “it’s better to die in Jakarta than to die in our home,” the young men – one of whom had never set foot outside the district – set out with a total of around US$250 between them. Five of them paid a bit over $20 each to stow away illegally on a cargo ship bound for Surabaya in East Java.

Before long the ship’s engines broke down and the ship began to drift in heavy seas. Water washed over some of the decks. The Pollo villagers were frightened but told each other, “If God takes us, so be it. We are fighting for others.”

After a while the engines were started again, but the ship now needed rerouting since it had drifted out of the shipping lanes. In the end it took four days for the ship to reach Surabaya, where the villagers had to huddle in a hidden room for two hours while the port inspector finished his rounds on board.

In Surabaya, the villagers had to buy food, and within a week their money was gone. One of the villagers, Niko Demus Manao, went to work humping 50-kilogramme sacks of fertilizer for a bit over three dollars a day, but was urged to desist by his friends who feared for his health. Some of the others got work as drivers, however, and the expedition was finally able to put together around $55.

They then got in touch with a television journalist who had once visited their region. The journalist invited them to her house together with staff from the East Java branch of WALHI – Friends of the Earth Indonesia – who suggested that they seek help from the organization’s national office.

On 5 January 2009 the team got on the train to Jakarta, standing up in third-class carriages for the entire 15-hour journey. Exhausted when they arrived, they collapsed on the Jakarta platform for a few hours of rest. After then locating a relative who helped them rent a room, they called on WALHI, where three of the villagers stayed a week while they met with the Environmental Ministry, the Forestry Department and a member of parliament as well as the national ombudsman. The villagers also joined hands with community representatives from Riau at a protest at the Forestry Department office, and filed a complaint about illegal logging and forest destruction with the national police.

The Forestry Department said it had no record of the Pollo forestry project, but an MP from East Nusa Tenggara province, citing his duty to serve his people, promised a follow-up investigation. He did arrive later in 2009, but only to campaign for re-election, not to pursue the case.

By the time the villagers made it back to Pollo, the 450 hectares of forest subjected to the GERHAN project were virtually gone. And even three years later, at the beginning of 2012, no official action had been taken in response to local concerns, with the exception of a letter from the national Human Rights Commission to the subprovincial government and another from the subprovincial parliament demanding an investigation.

The struggle was far from over, however. In February 2009, following the villagers’ return, Pollo residents began land occupations on the 450 hectares of roadside land that had been cleared for the GERHAN project. The objective was to prevent the government from returning, to use the land for houses and fields, and to replant part of it with useful tree species. A bonus was that occupying villagers could protect what large trees remained against human-caused or natural fires and guard against the banditry, murder and rape that afflicted this lonely stretch of road.

Four households occupied the land at first. Now there are 50, and some 365 additional families are still waiting to establish homesteads. The ultimate aim is to give each occupying household a 20-by-40 metre plot. Meanwhile, many of the pioneers are temporarily intercropping with the newly-planted trees on acreage outside their own household plots until the replanted trees are mature and the entire area can be divided up. Criminal activity along the road has ceased and at least one fire put out, but the occupants’ crops are failing due to bad weather.

On 30 January 2012, the head of the provincial livestock authority held a meeting in a local field office with the regency head and other members of the regency government about reviving the old livestock project, whose contract had expired in 2007. With villagers from four local settlements present, they said that on 2 February officials would hold a followup meeting at the same place.

The villagers’ response was immediate. On 1 February they began constructing a wooden barricade across the road to the field office. Their message: we want clarification of the status of the land in question.

On 2 February a vehicle arrived full of troops from Satuan Polisi Pamong Praja (Satpol PP), Indonesia’s public order agency tasked with policing riots, protests and evictions. Niko Demus Manao was taken to a nearby cooperative for a ‘heart to heart’ conversation about the objective of the protest.

During his interrogation, more vehicles showed up. One car full of thugs recruited from the local layabout population, together with two motorcycle policemen from the local station, went straight to the barrier across the road. Advancing to the barricade, the thugs asked the 50 villagers present to disassemble it. They refused.

Another car carrying the head and vice-head of the regency, together with more toughs, pulled up at the cooperative where Niko was being questioned. The Satpol officers went out to meet them, along with Niko. The regency head jumped out of his car, swearing at Niko. One of the thugs then put Niko in a headlock while another slapped and punched him in the face.

Wary of escalating the situation, Niko didn’t call out to the other villagers, who were out of sight, to come to his aid. Instead, shouting out to them not to fight, he did his best to wipe away the blood on his face and ran to a nearby house. The thugs who had arrived with the regency head meanwhile took apart the barricade.

Niko proceeded to the regency police station to report the assault on himself, but the responsible officer was still at the barricade. Niko wound up filing a complaint at the provincial level instead, taking care to obtain a personal copy. Afterwards, the police summoned the thug who had punched him to get his side of the story, but he denied even being on the scene. Nevertheless, he was jailed.

On 3 February the Pollo villagers reassembled the barricade across the road, also planting banana, coconut and cassava on the site to demonstrate their commitment to their cause. By mid-February, rumors were circulating that the regency head and the thugs he had hired were planning to burn down the houses of the villagers most active in the struggle.

The Pollo villagers remain unbowed, however. As an ethnic Amanuban community, they are an active part of an environmental and social alliance linking communities throughout South Central Timor belonging to the Mollo, Amanuban and Amanatun ethnic groups, each of which was formerly associated with a traditional princedom. The Mollo, who live in the upstream area and know themselves as the ‘daughters of nature’, have waged a largely-successful decade-long struggle against marble miners who would have destroyed many of the area’s distinctive mountains, and are also battling industrial tree plantations. The related Amanuban and Amanatun groups, who live downstream and are seen as the ‘sons of nature’, meanwhile face threats from oil development as well as mining and plantations.

Article written by Larry Lohmann, The Corner House ([email protected]) and Dinar Rani Setiawan ([email protected]), School of Democratic Economics, based on interviews in Timor in February 2012 together with: “Timlico dan Besipae, Contoh Kelam Peternakan NTT,” Pulangkandang, 3 December 2010,; “Pelajaran Dari Timlico dan Besipa”, Ekspedisi Jejak Peradaban NTT, Kompas, May 2011; Wikipedia, “Amanuban”,; and Siti Maimunah, “Climate Justice”, Inside Indonesia 105, July-September 2011,

Featured Filmmaker

Featured Filmmaker: Kiki Febriyanti

Name: Kiki Febriyanti

Age: 26

Location: Jakarta



    EngageMedia: Why do you use video? Tell us about the moment you first realised you wanted to be a videomaker.

    Kiki Febriyanti: The term “filmmaker” does not just refer to the director, but includes all the rest of the crew who take part in the making of a film. I see my role as a story-teller whose job it is to make sure more people hear about a story. In ‘Yup, It’s My Body’ , the characters already had their own stories.

    EM: How did you come to video as a medium? Why do you work with the moving image?

    KF: Initially I was just a video spectator and connoisseur. Before I learnt audio-visual techniques I did a lot with print media. I switched because with video I was able to convey something more easily and widely – especially in our society who prefer to watch and hear rather than read. In my opinion, video is practical and effective.

    EM: What are the main issues you address in your video work?

    KF: I like to make videos about topics that are close to my daily life – about things that happen to me and to those around me. I’m especially interested in gender issues and human rights.

    EM: How did you come to work with body image issues in ‘Yup, It’s My Body? Was it a process or did you just decide one day that you wanted to make the film?

    KF: Although the topics I addressed in the film are close to my life, I still went through various processes to be sure that I wanted to raise these particular issues. I also had to convince the subject to be comfortable with this process. It’s important to trust and feel comfortable when you are making a film about someone’s private life.

    EM: Many of your videos emphasise human rights and freedom of expression. Tell us more about that?

    KF: Sometimes we feel troubled or uneasy with situations … I realise it is impossible to change a situation alone, it may also take a long time. The changes that I want may only happen once I’m dead! But through the medium of film, I feel like I am able to “embrace” other people, and bring people together to make changes both big and small.

    EM: How do you think online distribution is changing the field of independent video making? How do you use online tools in your work?

    KF: Distribution seems to be a major problem for the independent filmmaker. We often face difficulties distributing our films. Online distribution is very helpful because it is relatively cheap and easy. Nowadays, I always use this method for distributing my films.


    If you know of any interesting filmmakers around Asia Pacific you’d like to see featured on, write to us today!

    Featured Filmmaker

    Featured Filmmaker: Tan Kai Swee

    Name: Tan Kai Swee

    Age: 62

    Location: Subang Jaya, Malaysia


    EngageMedia: Why do you use video? Tell us about the moment you first realised you wanted to be a videomaker.

    Tan Kai Swee: I have always enjoyed those BBC documentaries narrated by David Attenborough – his narrations make the images come alive and meaningful to the viewer. Without the audio part, there is no story, no learning, no matter how nice the images are.

    I joined Citizen Journalists Malaysia because I wanted to learn about the techniques of video shooting, editing and publishing. The trainers from Malaysiakini, an online news portal in Malaysia, truly inspired me to want to use video as a medium to tell stories – especially human stories. One month after the training, I set about making my first video documentary which was about a stray cat that took refuge on my front porch and gave birth to six cute kittens! From then on there was no looking back.

    The sixth video I did was about the lack of basic amenities in an Orang Asli (Indigenous people) village on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. That video won me the Citizen Journalists Video of the Year award in 2009. Then I got a bit bolder and ambitious and thought: why not try something like David Attenborough?

    I joined a group tour to Northern Thailand with the hope of making a video about the places I visited. The training by Malaysiakini taught us how to look for human stories – and the rich ethnic diversity and historical background of that area provided a lot of material. The stories I could tell about people in that area are endless.

    So in the four days I was there, while others were enjoying the tour, I started to do research on the internet, talking to the people and the tour guide to consolidate my stories. I then started shooting. From that trip alone I shot, edited, narrated and published six videos that were well received judging from the number of viewers, which keep increasing by the month. I have received good comments and encouragement from many who have viewed the videos and it gives me pride and satisfaction to tell these interesting life stories.

    EM: Your videos tend to be ‘cultural explainer’ type stories – where you explain a way of life of a particular cultural group to an outside audience. What appeals to you about this format?

    TKS: Maybe it has something to do with my age. I feel like there is so much that we see yet do not know or understand, and modern day life often diverts our attention away from issues of cultural ethnicity, poverty, suffering and oppression. I try to fill this gap and evidently from the amount of viewers there is interest in such stories.

    EM: Who is the intended audience of your work and what do you hope they learn from your videos?

    TKS: Since we are publishing on YouTube, in online news portals and on social media, our intended audience has always been worldwide and as such our stories are geared toward netizens.

    Recently I used an online subtitling tool to put English, Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia subtitles on my work. It’s increased my audience significantly. In fact since subtitling one video in English alone, the video (Shackled for life) had another 8000 viewers in that month. This is really encouraging.

    EM: During your trip to Northern Thailand you visited a Karen village on the Thai-Burma border. What tips do you have for videomakers wanting to make videos in remote communities?

    TKS: In fact, Northern Thailand is quite accessible to any foreigners if you have a local guide. Generally to reach some of these villages you need to trek over a couple of days and it can be quite demanding. A local guide will be able to bring you to some remote areas where you can get good images and stories. For this trip, most of areas that I visited were along the tourist routes.

    I have a plan to make a two week trek to the real remote areas, but that won’t be until next year. This year, I intend to go to Myanmar, now that things look slightly better there, and possibly to the interior Sri Lanka.

    EM: How has online distribution changed the work that you do?

    TKS: Without online distribution how could we as individual videomakers get eyeballs for our work? How could we compete with the big boys like BBC/CNN/Discovery channels? The ability for us to distribute online has really levelled to some extent the playing field and enabled freelance and volunteering video journalists to get their work out there.

    Online distribution has allowed the individual to tell the stories as he/she sees them. It has also allowed a new world of interaction between viewers and videomakers, enabling comments, discussions, learning and sharing. And now, social media has enabled us as individuals not only to publish but to promote our stories to the world at no cost.

    EM: You obviously feel passionate about social justice issues – what role do you see video playing in enabling change?

    TKS: My involvement in video journalism is about providing voices for the voiceless, bringing human, social, religious and ethnic issues to the forefront to achieve better understanding and tolerance among mankind. Every day we see the immense and intense results of our stories in bringing about better understanding of issues and that in itself is the precursor to change.

    As a video journalist, my greatest moments are when people are affected by our stories and benefit in some way from them, maybe empowering them to face their problems head on. My most recent video was a three minute interview with a businesswoman who was assaulted and sexually harassed in a police station. Alhough she spoke in Mandarin, I had it subtitled in English and in 36 hours it had been seen by more than 40,000 people, had attracted hundreds of comments and had been widely shared on Facebook. This public outcry has prompted immediate investigation into the matter by the police department. It’s this kind of change that I feel passionate about.