Update from Tunis: UNESCO kicked off its World Press Freedom celebrations here at a ceremony at the presidential palace conducted via Google Hangout. Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki spoke with Freedom House Vice President Daniel Calingaert in Washington DC. The President said that his country's revolution last year "was done in the defense of freedom of expression," vowing that "Tunisia will never give up the freedom of expression is has won." A full two day program on press freedom continues Friday and Saturday under the theme “Media Freedom Helping to Transform Societies: New Voices, Youth and Social Media.”

The United Nations designates every May 3 as World Press Freedom Day. The day is designed to raise awareness about of the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their commitment to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This year, UNESCO is marking the day in Tunisia. The choice of setting honours the North African country’s recent uprising in favor freedom of expression, one in which the Internet played an important role. On Thursday afternoon, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki will host the ceremony conferring the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize on a deserving individual, organisation or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the defence of press freedom.

We’re proud to be sponsoring the celebrations. President Marzouki announced the event through his official Google page and we’re organising a Google Hangout from the presidential palace, allowing guests from Amsterdam, Tripoli and Washington, D.C. to speak with the Tunisian President.

Thursday’s ceremony will be followed by a two-day conference bringing journalists, NGOs and officials from all over the world to Tunisia. They will discuss how to improve the safety of journalists, deal with defamation, develop opublic service broadcasting, and the issue of media ownership in a changing media landscape. Throughout, the impact of the Internet and social media will be on the agenda.

We’re involved here as well. Maha Abouelenein, our head of communications in MENA, will participate in a session about new media in the afternoon of May 4. Khaled Koubaa, our policy manager for North Africa, will appear on the same day on a panel titled “Innovation in Gathering and Sharing News. Finally, I will speak on May 5 about freedom of expression.

Please stay with us to follow UNESCO’s Tunis World Press Freedom celebrations.