(vi) Actions to support participatory communication and the free flow and sharing of information and knowledge [This section was drawn from the reports of the World Commission on Culture and Development (UNESCO 1995) and the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (1992), as well as inputs from the Universal Postal Union, the Organization of American States and UNESCO.]

92. Freedom of opinion, expression and information, recognized as an integral aspect of human rights and fundamental freedoms [19], is a vital factor in the strengthening of peace and international understanding. It is needed to replace the secrecy and manipulation of information which characterize the culture of war. In this regard, the media can be a powerful partner for the construction of a culture of peace. Its technological advances and pervasive growth have made it possible for every person to take part in the making of history, enabling for the first time a truly global movement for a culture of peace. At the same time, however, the media is sometimes misused to create and disseminate enemy images, violence and even genocide against other ethnic and national groups, and to portray and glorify violence in many forms. Also secrecy is on the increase, justified in terms of 'national security' and 'economic competitiveness', whereas in fact more transparency is needed in governance and economic decision-making. Therefore, actions are proposed in support of this aim which realize the positive potential of the media to provide essential information and to promote, via participatory communication, the values, attitudes and behaviours of a culture of peace.

93. The new communications strategy of the United Nations, as well as such regional and national efforts as the Communication for Peace-building Programme of the Special Initiative for Africa, should be at the heart of a strategy of education for a culture of peace and non-violence. This should provide a forum for the exchange of ideas, emphasizing two-way communication and participation. People everywhere should be able to learn about what is being done to promote a culture of peace, both locally and globally. Films, video games and radio and television programmes which illustrate and promote the basic values, attitudes and behaviours of a culture of peace should be recognized and encouraged.

94. Recent world conferences of the United Nations have emphasized the potential contribution of mass communications to development, democracy, human rights, the role of youth and the advancement of women. A systematic process of research, consultation and decision-making is needed to determine how the United Nations, Member States and other institutions can take advantage of the rapid technological advances and proliferation of communication systems in order to realize this potential through the active participation of people, both in terms of access to information and access to the means of expression. More open, two-way mass communication systems are required to enable communities to express their needs and participate in decisions that concern the development process, thus strengthening the democratic process. The agenda could consider the international communications space (airwaves, satellites, etc) as a global commons to be regulated and used in the public interest, including the potential for international public media.

95. Support to independent media can ensure that people everywhere have access to free, pluralistic and independent sources of information. This is especially important in situations of violent conflict where independent media can counteract xenophobic propaganda and enemy images, as in the former Yugoslavia where precedent was set in 1994 when the United Nations Inter-Agency Appeal for the first time included 'assistance to independent media'. In the context of the UNESCO SOS MEDIA programme assisting independent media in conflict areas since 1993, along with organizations of media professionals and the International Programme for the Development of Communication, the professionalism and pluralism of independent media need to be strengthened with further technical assistance and training.

96. Freedom of the press needs to be vigorously defended against all threats, including but not limited to government restrictions and censorship. The freedom and physical safety of journalists and other media workers requires special recognition and defence as it often involves challenging the secrecy which hides corruption, violence and illegality. It is necessary to go beyond documentation of these attacks (more than one thousand attacks against journalists and press organizations registered in 1996 by the International Freedom of Expression and Exchange Network) and ensure the development of an environment in which press freedom can be exercised without fear. This can be facilitated by vigorous implementation of the decision of the twenty-ninth General Conference of UNESCO to combat the impunity of crimes against journalists and the media and other initiatives such as the recently created Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Organization of American States.

97. Freedom of communication must be defended in all of its aspects. The example set by the Universal Postal Union, which continues to uphold the principle of freedom of transit and inviolability of correspondence throughout the world, including regions torn by violence and armed conflict, should be emulated by those responsible for every system of communication.

98. It is vital to promote transparency in governance and economic decision-making and to look into the proliferation of secrecy justified in terms of 'national security', 'financial security', and 'economic competitiveness'. The question is to what extent this secrecy is compatible with the access to information necessary for democratic practice and social justice and whether, in some cases, instead of contributing to long-term security, it may conceal information about processes (ecological, financial, military, etc.) which are a potential threat to everyone and which need therefore to be addressed collectively.

99. The pervasive portrayal of violence in the media is one of the factors producing a feeling of pessimism and an attitude among many young people that violence is more effective than active non-violence. Further study is needed of this problem, as well as exchange and dissemination of research results, including information and evaluation of existing self-regulation by the media. Support ought to be given to media space for young people to express themselves and establish useful dialogue with others in their society, as well as to the development, exchange and commercial distribution of alternative, positive media productions.

100. As recognized by Agenda 21 from the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, the sharing of scientific and technical information is crucial for global progress towards sustainable development, upon which a culture of peace must be based if it is to be secure [20]. On the basis of the recommendations of Agenda 21 and its follow-up, a major new effort needs to be launched, using the most recent advances in communication technology, to make available the channels of information exchange used by scientists and technical professionals to their colleagues in all regions of the world, including provision and maintenance of necessary technical equipment and training.

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