Punta del Este, Uruguay, May 2 (EFE).- The general director of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, on Monday during the official inauguration of the international entity’s conference for World Press Freedom Day, discussed the risks that new technologies are posing for journalism.
Azoulay, a French citizen, participated along with Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou in the official opening ceremony for the conference, which will run until Wednesday in Punta del Este, Uruguay, with the slogan “Journalism under Digital Siege.”
“With digital technology, the risks are not the same as in the past,” she said during her address, in which she acknowledged that “never has information been so accessible and investigations so broad, but they have also never been so hidden and even so stifled.”
In the opinion of the head of the UN Educational, Science and Cultural Organization, press freedom, which must be “a pillar of societies,” has been “shaken by technology.”
The safety of journalists working in conflict zones and the sustainability of communications media were other matters discussed by Azoulay in her remarks, and she emphasized the importance of the “online literacy” of the public to create citizens with critical thinking abilities “in a world of algorithms and digital cameras.”
The need for education was also emphasized by the Uruguayan leader, who said he favored “not moving forward on regulating” the media.
“I think that the ability we have to educate the citizenry on how, what and where to involve themselves is fundamental. The alternative is to bury your head in the sand,” noted the center-rightist Lacalle Pou, who – nevertheless – said he is “in love with this epoch” and feels that access to information and news is “a blessing.”
The Uruguayan president said that the world is currently going through “a very stimulating and very attractive season of change in what has become a horizontal form of communications between citizens and governments.”
“That poses a challenge for us,” he added.
For the introductory ceremony, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and US High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet sent separate videotaped messages warning of the threats to journalism and emphasizing the value of the press in fostering and preserving freedom around the world.
“Without press freedom there are no democratic societies,” Guterres declared.
Participating in the conference in Punta del Este are more than 1,000 people who are physically present along with 2,000 who are taking part online, according to UNESCO figures.
The conference will feature more than 70 sessions with some 300 speakers from all over the world, including assorted training sessions, the presentation of reports and tools to finance and protect journalists and the information they gather, along with other activities.