Wednesday 23 April 2014

World Book Day

Today is World Book and Copyright Day, organised by UNESCO to promote reading, publishing and copyright. 

The connection between 23 April and books was first made in 1923 by booksellers in Spain as a way to mark the death date of the author Miguel de Cervantes. In 1995, UNESCO decided to adopt it as World Book and Copyright Day. The date is also the anniversary of the birth and death of William Shakespeare.

Unfortunately, this World Book Day is marked by sadness in Asia. The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, yesterday presented the people of Myanmar with her condolences following the death of journalist and poet U Win Tin, laureate of the 2001 UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.

U Win Tin co-founded Myanmar’s National League for Democracy in 1988.  He was arrested soon afterwards and spent nearly 20 years in prison before being released in 2008.  While he was behind bars, Win Tin continued to advocate for free speech and democracy, even writing a letter to the United Nations that led to an extension of his sentence.

“The death of U Win Tin is a loss to the people of Myanmar and to champions of freedom of expression all over the world,” declared Irina Bokova.  “It is also a loss for UNESCO, whose values U Win Tin promoted with exemplary selflessness before his country embarked on the process of democratisation that is presently underway.”

U Win Tin died on 21 April after being admitted to hospital because of kidney problems.

On a happier note, you can celebrate World Book Day by joining in with worldwide debate via UNESCO’s Facebook page: click here.

To mark World Book Day, the on-line magazine In Asia has a feature on elevating growth in Cambodia through combating illiteracy.  Click here.