Freedom of expression in general, and media development in particular, are core to UNESCO's constitutional mandate to advance ‘the mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples, through all means of mass communication' and promoting ‘the free flow of ideas by word and image.' For UNESCO, press freedom is a corollary of the general right to freedom of expression. Since 1991, the year of the seminal Windhoek Declaration, which was endorsed by our Member States, UNESCO has understood press freedom as designating the conditions of media freedom, pluralism and independence, as well as the safety of journalists. It is within this framework that this report examines progress as regards press freedom, including in regard to gender equality, and makes sense of the evolution of media actors, news media institutions and journalistic roles over time.
The overarching global trend with respect to media freedom, pluralism, independence and the safety of journalists over the past several years is that of disruption and change brought on by technology, and to a lesser extent, the global financial crisis. These trends have impacted traditional economic and organizational structures in the news media, legal and regulatory frameworks, journalism practices, and media consumption and production habits. Technological convergence has expanded the number of and access to media platforms as well as the potential for expression. It has enabled the emergence of citizen journalism and spaces for independent media, while at the same time fundamentally reconfiguring journalistic practices and the business of news.