As we approach the start of the official World Press Freedom Day 2011 program, I wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the notable activities and participants, and underscore the remarkable scope and ambition of the agenda (linked below). The three day program will officially begin on May 1, with an Opening Ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, DC. This is a very special occasion for the United States, as we play host to the official program for the first time. World Press Freedom Day was established nearly 20 years ago, and is coordinated annually by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), an international organization with which my bureau works closely.
The opening ceremony will feature remarks from U.S. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith McHale, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova, Newseum Board of Trustees member Bette Bao Lord, and National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman.
The second day of events (May 2) will feature thematic panel discussions, breakout sessions, and a unique town hall-format discussion hosted by the Associated Press. This event, slate to take place at the Newseum's Knight Studio, will feature four journalists from challenging media environments who face cyber-surveillance, digital harassment, and other censorship threats. Panelists include: Wael Abbas, blogger and founder of Misr Digital; Nazila Fathi, correspondent for the New York Times; Xiao Qiang, editor and founder of the China Digital Times, and Chiranuch Premchaiporn, Executive Director of the Thai daily Prachatai. The event will be moderated by the AP's Kimberly Dozier, a veteran foreign correspondent and specialist on international security issues.
The three-day program will conclude on May 3 at the National Press Club, with the awarding of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. Imprisoned Iranian journalist Ahmad Zeidabadi will be the recipient of this year's prize. The United States is pleased and honored to support this program as we strive to achieve press freedom throughout the world and support those journalists risking their lives to tell their story.