The formal opening ceremony of the 62nd World Newspaper Congress and the 16th World Editors Forum (WEF) and Info Services Expo 2009 was held in Hyderabad on December 1, 2009 in the presence of President of India Pratibha Devi Singh Patil at the HICC Convention Centre.
Setting the tone for a progressive and free press in India, T Venkattaram Reddy, President, Indian Newspaper Society (INS), delivered the welcome address where he highlighted the progress of media in the country and the contribution of INS in this progress.
This was followed by a special address by Gavin O’Reill, President, WAN-IFRA, wherein he shared his thoughts on the rise of Indian media and the economy. He noted, “Today, 20 per cent of all dailies in the world are sold in India, surpassing China as the largest market for newspapers in the world.” He further mentioned that despite the existing tough industry scenario, the Congress and WEF was being attended by 900 delegates from 87 countries.
Also on the occasion, Najam Sethi, Editor-in-Chief, Friday Times and Daily Times, Pakistan, was presented with the Golden Pen Award by Xavier Vidal Folch, President, World Editor’s Forum for his outstanding contribution to the defence and promotion of press freedom. “We give this Award to Najam Sethi for carrying out his role as an independent journalist and for reporting all sides of the issue in an environment, which has become victim of repeated threats and attacks from the non-state organisations and also the security forces,” Folch said while mentioning the physical violence and death threats that Sethi had received in the course of his job.
Accepting the Award, Sethi said, “This Award means that everyone here is watching our backs and backing our struggle to be honest and objective in our reportage.” He also raised the point that though the media in South Asia had a lot of freedom, they were entrapped in narrow nationalism.
Dr J Geeta Reddy, Minister of Tourism, Culture & I&PR, Government of Andhra Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K Rosaiah subsequently addressed the audience with the progress of media in Andhra Pradesh and the country.
President Patil then shared her views on the importance of media as a catalyst to social and behavioural change. She said, “Media should find a balance between negative and positive messages and inspire and educate people about a wide range of issues.”
The opening ceremony ended with a video presentation on freedom of the press and a cultural performance. Following this, the Info Services Expo 2009 was inaugurated.