July 10, 2014 - Updated on January 25, 2016

Access to media and information could be dropped from UN development goals

In a follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals, the United Nations is currently drafting a new set of development goals with the aim of eradicating poverty by 2030. The Open Working Group (OWG) that was given the job of drafting the new goals will hold its 13th and final session from 14 to 18 July.

Goal 16, on the media and information, is the subject of heated discussion and opposition from certain OWG members such as Russia, Cuba and China. Protection of the right to information is in danger of being weakened or disappearing altogether, to be replaced a vague reference to freedom of expression.

Including protection of the right to information and to free, independent and pluralist media in the development goals offers a historic opportunity to enshrine these principles as indispensible for the development of both the individual and society,” said Prisca Orsonneau, a member of the Paris bar association and coordinator of Reporters Without Borders’ Legal Committee. “The drafters must take care to formulate Goal 16 in a precise way so as to guarantee media freedom and public access to information in a sustainable and concrete manner.”

An initial report by a High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons, posted online on 22 September 2013, envisaged the inclusion of a “transparency revolution” and “freedom of speech and the media.” But the latest version, posted by the Open Working Group on 2 July, has just a vague and general reference to “free and easy access to information” and “freedom of expression” in a single sub-goal, 16-7.

Reporters Without Borders urges governments to include freedom of information and the right to information as one of the development programme’s specific goals, as the initial report recommended.

A video released by the Global Forum for Media Development stresses the essential role that the means of communication – newspapers, Internet, radio and TV – play in development:

Last February, RWB signed a statement circulated by the NGO Article 19 that is entitled “Post-2015: Access to information and independent media essential to development.”

The final version of the post-2015 development goals will be submitted to the UN General Assembly in August 2014.