Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) : «Freedom of Expression Crucial for Information Society»

Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura, UNESCO Director-General - UNESCO, Paris, November 21, 2003 - 2003/11/21

Speaking to the permanent delegates of UNESCO member states at the second WSIS briefing session, Mr. Matsuura stressed that “the Summit must also address ethical and intellectual considerations, which embrace such matters as social inclusion, youth, gender, cultural diversity, human rights and intercultural dialog.” This is why UNESCO has stressed that “the Summit needs to address, first and foremost, the social, political, cultural and institutional dimensions of change.” It is also the reason why UNESCO strongly prefers the concept of knowledge societies to that of information society, “as it goes beyond issues of connectivity and technological development to encompass a broader and more empowering vision that is based on the potential of ICT to enhance human development.” Mr. Matsuura noted with satisfaction that many UNESCO principles—namely equal access to education, universal access to information, and the preservation and promotion of cultural diversity—are included in the present drafts of the Declaration of Principles and the Plan of Action of WSIS. He also stressed the importance of retaining an explicit reference—still under negotiation in the present drafts—to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the Declaration and the Plan of Action and urged representatives of member states to obtain from their governments the inclusion of “an explicit reference to freedom of expression.” However, Mr. Matsuura also expressed his concern about “the continuing absence of any reference to the role that media play in the development of knowledge societies,” adding that “explicit references to the role of media, including the role of traditional media, in the information society in general and to their independence, pluralism and freedom, in particular, need to be retained in the Summit texts.”