Statement by the Representative of Cyprus
Mrs. Maria Zoupaniotis
at the 21st Session
of the Committee on Information

May 6, 1999

Mr. Chairman,

First of all, let me extend to you and other members of the bureau, our warmest congratulations on your election. As in the past, Cyprus will fully support the work of the Committee and fully cooperate with the Chair in the spirit of openness and cooperation that has always existed in the Committee of Information. We would also like to welcome Angola, Moldova and Solomon Islands as new members of the committee.

Furthermore, my delegation would like to thank Under-Secretary General Kensaku Hogen-and through him the Secretary General- for his thorough and lucid statement on the work of the Department of Public Information and his insights for the improvement and the expansion of its functions. Our gratitude is also conveyed to the DPI staff for their dedication and hard work in providing an effective and professional service in a difficult financial climate.

World Press Freedom Day, that has been celebrated last Monday May 3, reminds us that the call for freedom of information came in one of the very first resolutions of the General Assembly. Freedom of Information was characterized as the fundamental human right and the touchstone of all the freedoms to which the United Nations is concentrated. My delegation strongly adheres to the right of individuals to hold opinions without interference and the freedom of the press to collect, distribute, analyze and disseminate information and we are opposed with any kind of interference with the flow of information. As journalists continue to be imprisoned and get killed at the four corners of the world it is important to recommit ourselves to the goal of guaranteeing this freedom, to fostering an independent and pluralist media as a prerequisite to freedom of the Press, and to strengthening the information potential of the less open and less privileged parts of the world. At the same time, we also recognize the existing imbalance of the distribution system, as the bulk of the international information is produced and distributed by a limited number of countries with the financial resources and high technology. We welcome the effort to promote a "culture of communications" within the UN system. A "global culture of communications", however, can prevail if existing disparities in information flows are reduced and if there is effective participation in the information society and mastery by all of information and communications technology.

Our delegation fully shares the desire of people in developing countries to achieve a balanced approach to information and the Government of Cyprus has always facilitated the free flow of information through its highly sophisticated and advanced telecommunication infrastructure and assisted international press agencies and the United Nations in their tasks. Ideally positioned among three continents Cyprus was always a center for monitoring activities and a transitional site for moving human and technical resources in areas of crisis.

We recognize the significance of the new media technologies and especially of the internet, as means of disseminating information about the UN objectives in a more rapid and effective way. It is, however, important to ensure that documents containing information from secessionist entities, in contravention of UN General Assembly and Security Council Resolutions, should not in any way find their way to the official UN Web Page.

Mr. Chairman,

At a time when the UN's credibility is seriously challenged, efforts to promote UN public image as an indispensable instrument for international cooperation, must be redoubled. In this regard we welcome the increasing role of the civil society in the redissemination of the message of the United Nations as well as the role played by the Media Response Group as adviser to the Under Secretary General for Communications and Public Information for timely responses to misinformation or criticism of the United Nations in the media. Similarly the U.N. Information Centers are vital mechanisms for keeping the world informed on the recent achievements and goals of the United Nations and at the same time offer an objective picture of the international events.

Mr. Chairman,

Recent world events have exposed the strengths and weaknesses of the global information apparatus and highlighted the need of a more balanced growth of media around the world. The free and unbiased flow of information will be a decisive factor for the shape of the future to come. It is for this reason that my delegation supports the call for a World Information and Communication Order.

We finally believe that the United Nations should continue its efforts through the Department of Public Information to meet its objective of increasing public awareness of UN issues with emphasis on issues of social and economic development, issues of human rights and humanitarian law, issues of gender equality and population, issues on anti-personnel mines and their destruction, on international criminal court and on its peace-keeping efforts around the globe. It should also offer visibility to the peace-keeping operations, the international humanitarian efforts to protect and assist refugees and displaced persons and focus on the global environment.

Thank You Mr. Chairman.

* * * * *