Topic: Special Days
Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers". We probably take this right for granted in Britain where, if you say a politician is an 'asshole', you won't go to prison or be killed. But this is not a free world and not every country is so lucky.
Since 1993, the General Assembly of the United Nations has observed, "World Press Freedom Day" on 3rd May to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, which includes freedom of expression in cyberspace, and to pay tribute to professional journalists who have lost their lives doing their jobs. It is an opportunity to remind the world of the importance of protecting these rights because, in dozens of countries around the world, press freedom is being violated as you read this. Publications are censored, or closed down, editors are harassed, or murdered. Journalists are persecuted, jailed without trial or assassinated. Did you know that over the past twelve years more than 1,100 journalists and other media professional staff have been killed? Twenty-three have been killed in 2005.
Unfortunately, we often think of reporters as 'paparazzi' chasing some famous person to discover the colour of their night attire or who is sharing their bed. Look what happened to Diana, Princess of Wales, who was never allowed a moment's respite from these 'vampires'. Their ruthless task is to feed the desire of people to read 'comics' which pretend to give news - when all they actually do is to promote scandal. Any means available to secure their desired photograph is considered 'fair play'. Well, I couldn't care less that once upon a time some sad man desired to suck the toes of a certain Duchess! No, freedom of expression in an oppressed country means the right to challenge the dictatorship, or to comment on the system, without courting imprisonment or death.
My Spanish nephew, Ramon Lobo Leyder, is a reporter, a war correspondent for a Spanish newspaper. He has actually published two books in Spain, one a novel and one about his experiences as a war correspondent. My sister told me it was very difficult for her to read about the atrocities he had witnessed. Bosnia, Chechnya, Sierra Leone, Iraq, wherever there has been a conflict, he has been in the thick of it. In May 2000, he was in Sierra Leone. On the 24th May, he waved to his good friend, Miguel Gil Moreno, a cameraman for Associated Press Television News, who was accompanying Kurt Schork, An American correspondent for Reuters news agency, as they left the hotel with a group of other journalists. Shortly after, they were both killed, together with four Sierra Leone soldiers, as rebels ambushed their cars. Four more in the group were injured. Ramon could have been with them but for a twist of fate. In January, this year, he was in Palestine for the elections. He and his photographer, Carmen Secanella, got out of their car in the refugee camp of Yan Yunes, in the Gaza strip. Suddenly, they were surrounded by masked men waving guns. He managed to signal to his driver to drive off before they were forced at gunpoint into a building. The kidnap was one of the hazards journalists dread. Thank God they weren't held very long, their driver had managed to alert the authorities to what had happened, but for a while Ramon thought his time had come.
We must realise that an attack on media freedom is an attack on democracy; an attack against truth; a violation of human rights. Worldwide Bloggers are also having their say about worldwide issues. They are exposing violations by their governments and providing the outside world with information that otherwise might not have been available. Some of them have also been arrested.