The UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, established in 1997, annually honors a person, organization or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the defense and/or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, especially when this has been achieved in the face of danger.
It was established on the initiative of UNESCO's Executive Board and is formally conferred by the Director-General of the Organization, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, on May 3rd.
The Prize is named in honor of Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian journalist who was assassinated in front of the offices of his newspaper, El Espectador, in Bogotá, on 17 December 1986. The murder of Guillermo Cano is significant in terms of unpunished crimes against journalists. Cano was a victim of drug trafficking mafias, which he fearlessly denounced and about whose harmful effects on Colombian society he cautioned. On 17 December 1986, two hired killers waited for him by the newspaper’s exit and fired the eight shots that killed him. The magistrates in charge of the investigation became the object of threats and bribes ─ some of them were murdered for rejecting such bribes. The life of Guillermo Cano, his courage, his commitment to independent journalism and the tenacity with which he fought for his country are an example for the rest of the world to follow.
Guillermo Cano's fate exemplifies the price paid by journalists the world over in exercising their profession; journalists are imprisoned and ill-treated every day and the fact that these crimes, for the most part, go unpunished is even more alarming.
The prize is awarded on the recommendation of an independent jury of 12 news professionals. Names are submitted by regional and international non-governmental organizations working for press freedom, and by UNESCO Member States.