The World Press Freedom Committee has provided leadership for more than 30 years in the fight against licensing of journalists, mandatory codes of conduct, mandatory tasks for journalists and other news controls. Originally created to wage an eventually successful global struggle in and around intergovernmental organizations to beat back authoritarian 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.
- Work in intergovernmental forums to extend press freedom principles of traditional news media to the Internet, World Wide Web and Direct Satellite Broadcasting (New Media Conference) (Working Papers from the Conference)
- Coordinate joint activities for a front-line grouping 9 major global free-press organizations, the Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations.
- Conduct major international conferences in 2003 (New York) and 2007 (Paris) to combat controls on news content in the new media, and to expose press censorship (It's A Crime: How Insult Laws Stifle Press Freedom) and surveillance by repressive regimes (Does China Hope to Remap the Internet in its Own Image?)
- Present a ground-breaking exposition of the case that press freedom is a motor for economic development.
- Set out global press freedom principles in the 1981 Declaration of Talloires, followed in 1987 by the 10-point Charter for a Free Press.
- Set out the first analysis of post-Cold War code words that can mask censorship practices.
- 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 and a 2006 update of such laws. A brief overview of the earlier publication of Hiding From the People is available in English and Spanish. WPFC also produced a unique model legal brief currently being used by lawyers around the world to assist journalists and media under legal attack for doing their jobs. The amicus curiae brief is available free of charge to demonstrate to courts that insult laws violate the human rights conventions to which the international community has subscribed. (Spanish version)
- Present the first world survey of journalism training opportunities for developing journalists.
- Provide essential legal arguments to win the first decision by an international human rights court saying mandatory licensing of journalists violates human rights law.
- Produce 56 major publications, including the first regionally oriented general journalism training manuals in local languages 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 study showing how restrictive principles 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.