The World Press Freedom Committee has provided leadership for more than 25 years in the fight against licensing of journalists, mandatory codes of conduct, ordered tasks for journalists and other news controls.
Originally created to oppose proposals for a restrictive “new world information and communication order,” the WPFC has gone on to:
- Administer the only global program for systematically monitoring press freedom issues at UNESCO, the U.N. and other intergovernmental organizations on behalf of press freedom groups.
- Coordinate joint activities for a front-line grouping of nine major global free-press organizations.
- Set out the first global enunciation of press freedom principles in the 1981 Declaration of Talloires, followed by the 1987 Charter for a Free Press.
- Produce in 1985 the first comprehensive survey of killings, arrests and harassment of journalists, showing that licensing would not protect journalists.
- Conduct the first world study of “insult laws” that shield authorities from press scrutiny. WPFC also produced a unique model legal brief for use in fighting such laws, and works to abolish these.
- Present the first world survey of training opportunities for Third World journalists.
- Help win the first decision by an international human rights court saying mandatory licensing of journalists violates human rights provisions.
- Produce 56 major publications, including the first regionally oriented general training manuals for journalists of the Caribbean and Eastern Europe and similar handbooks in English and French for African journalists.
- Propose and administer the first joint program by world free-press groups to provide local lawyers for journalists facing prosecution in national courts, through a Fund Against Censorship.
- Present a revealing study showing how restrictive principles contained in generally beneficial human rights conventions can be used to hobble journalists and news media.
- Produce the first surveys of practical needs of emerging free press outlets in the former Soviet bloc, and hold the first general conference of NGOs on mobilizing resources to meet these needs.
- Present a ground-breaking exposition of the case that press freedom is a motor for economic development.
- Set out the first analysis of post-Cold War code words that can mask censorship practices.
- Identify for intergovernmental forums the need to extend press freedom principles of traditional news media to the Internet, World Wide Web and Direct Satellite Broadcasting.