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Medal-awarding Ceremony to Alain Modoux

Speech of the Director General of UNESCO Irina Bokova, on occasion of the medal-awarding ceremony to Alain Modoux San José, Costa Rica, 2 May 2013


Ladies and Gentlemen, Allow me to thank our host, Mr Bob Boorstin, for his hospitality. It has become a tradition for Google to offer a reception on the occasion of the World presse Freedom Day celebrations and I wish to thank him for this generous gesture. Mr Alain Modoux, Dear Friend, It is a great pleasure to address these words to you on this 20th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day.

Behind every International Day, there are men and women, mobilising for the defence of the values we share.

Alain Modoux, you are the man behind World Press Freedom Day. One of its principal architects, you have contributed greatly to the remarkable success of this International Day since its creation.

World Press Freedom Day was established by the General Assembly of United Nations in 1993, following the resolution of the 26th session of the UNESCO General Conference in 1991. The date of May 3 was not chosen by chance.

Speech of the Director General of UNESCO Irina Bokova, on occasion of the medal-awarding ceremony to Alain Modoux.

You chose it, in reference to the Windhoek Declaration on the promotion of an independent and pluralist African press – a Declaration that you helped formulate during a conference organised by UNESCO and the United Nations in 1991.

The Windhoek Declaration gave birth to many others -- in Alma Ata, in Santiago, in Sofia, in my own country. …

The Declaration was adopted by the UNESCO General Conference – and for the first time in the United Nations system, Member States adopted a declaration drafted by a non-governmental entity without a single change.

This shows the power of its words.

This shows its importance.

This launched a global movement that mobilised Governments and civil society… to promote and protect press freedom across the world… to support media development… to craft a network of NGOs ... to create the Guillermo Cano Prize…

Alain Modoux,

You helped to lead this movement from the front, taking forward UNESCO values and objectives, should-to-shoulder with Member States.

UNESCO’s action to support press freedom under your leadership received international recognition, as well as some of its most significant results, notably in zones of conflict, drawing on your experience in Vietnam, including especially in former Yugoslavia and Africa. UNESCO builds today on foundations you helped set, to enhance the safety of journalists, to strengthen inclusive media development and content.

Dear Alain, in recognition of all of this, it is my pleasure and honour to award you this medal. This UNESCO medal represents a Duho armchair, a masterpiece of Taïno art, made by the Arawak Indians of the Greater Antilles.

It may seem ironic to offer a medal representing an armchair to someone who never sits down! This medal was created in 1997, the year of the creation of the Guillermo Cano Prize. What is more, the Duho armchairs were used during ritual ceremonies, reserved for the highest personalities.

This reflects the estimation we have for you. On behalf of UNESCO, I am honoured to award you this medal as a symbol of our recognition and of our friendship.