The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat released the following press statement on the eve of World Press Freedom Day.

Media freedom and freedom of information are essential for good governance, development and peace in the Pacific region.

"This is why we would encourage all in the Pacific region to make it a commitment to removing all obstacles to press freedom, to ensure the right conditions for an independent and professional media exist, and to empower their citizens to engage in public debate," Peter Forau, Acting Secretary General of the Forum Secretariat said on the eve of World Press Freedom Day tomorrow 3rd May.

Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right recognized in Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. The UN General Assembly proclaimed World Press Freedom Day in 1993 and the Day has been observed on 3 May ever since.

Mr Forau explained: "All citizens at all levels of our societies must be allowed to exercise their right to freedom of expression without undue sanction by governments. Essentially media freedom is the universally accepted true manifestation of the exercise of this right. Also media freedom is the hallmark of true democracy and no government can claim to respect the values of democracy if it cannot respect and protect media freedom."

"I encourage the media in the region to do their work in a professional manner without fear or favour and with responsibility. And for this to happen the media must have a conducive environment supported by governments to perform their duty of informing the public," Mr Forau said.

Last year the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) the premier media association in the region with membership from all the Forum member countries. PINA defends press freedom in the region as well as provides training for its membership.