World Press Freedom Day (3 May) pays homage to freedom of the press as an essential part of democratic, informed, and participatory societies. It calls for a reflection on its history, evaluation of the current state of press freedom around the world, and for remembrance of those journalists who have lost their lives providing access to information.

This year, World Press Freedom Day is celebrating its 30th anniversary. UNESCO invites you to join global celebrations on this year’s theme, “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of expression as a driver for all other human rights”. Read more here.

The world’s libraries and archives hold the memory of how press freedom developed, proliferated around the world, and has been defended over the centuries.

IFLA and UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme are therefore jointly celebrating this special anniversary by looking at the past, preserved through the world’s documentary heritage, and reflecting on how it shapes our understanding of human rights today.

We proudly present a Special Edition of the Memory of the World Sub-committee on Education and Research (SCEaR) Newsletter: Press Freedom and Documentary Heritage.

Memory of the World SCEaR Newsletter: Press Freedom and Documentary Heritage

World Press Freedom Day (3 May) acts as a reminder of the importance of respecting commitments to freedom of the press. It calls for reflection on how these freedoms were achieved, evaluation of the current state of press freedom around the world, and remembrance of those journalists who have lost t...

Shaping a Window to the World

Exploring the evolution of human rights through documentary heritage is closely connected to the theme of the Memory of the World Programme’s 30th Anniversary. Celebrated in 2022, the programme used its anniversary to invite all stakeholders to enlist documentary heritage to promote inclusive, just, and peaceful societies.

Concepts of human rights and freedoms developed over time, and the evidence of their development is recorded in documentary heritage. Newspapers, books, archival court documents, letters, essays and more capture people’s ideas, struggles, and experiences which shaped our modern understanding of human rights.

Inside the Newsletter

This Special Edition Newsletter grew from an open session at the 87th World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) in Dublin, Ireland, titled: A Laboratory of Ideas: 75 Years of Partnership with UNESCO. Speakers from UNESCO joined this session to reflect on the past and exchange new ideas for collaboration with IFLA and the library field.

Lothar Jordan, Chair of the SCEaR, identified an opportunity to jointly celebrate the anniversary of World Press Freedom Day. This celebration would invite library professionals to share items from their institutions’ collections that help tell the story of press freedom – its early days, the challenges it faced, or the impact it had on their society.

Earlier in 2023, IFLA published a call for articles, and we are pleased to feature diverse voices from library professionals in this special newsletter.

Barbara Lison, IFLA President, shares a foreword which further reflects on the call from Memory of the World to enlist documentary heritage to promote inclusive, just, and peaceful societies. This is accompanied by a foreword from Tawfik Jelassi, UNESCO Assistant Director General for Communications and Information, who provides insight into World Press Freedom Day and the intersection of journalism and documentary heritage.

Contributing authors introduce documentary heritage items from across the centuries, introducing the circumstances around the item’s creation, and exploring its importance for the development of press freedom. Stories from Sri Lanka, Greece, Curaçao, Indonesia, Germany, Niger, and beyond demonstrate the way ideas proliferate and how the development of fundamental rights and freedoms continues to be informed by people around the world.

To close, the International Council on Archives (ICA), Section on Archives and Human Rights shares a reflection and Claire McGuire, IFLA Policy and Research Officer, provides an update on IFLA’s work.

On World Press Freedom Day, explore how library collections can illustrate, inform, and inspire a greater understanding of human rights through recording the memory of those who helped shaped them.

IFLA thanks all those who contributed submissions to this newsletter, as well as the Advisory Committee on Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression (FAIFE) for helping conceptualise this project. We extend a special thank you to Lothar Jordan and Fackson Banda of the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme for the excellent collaboration.