Years ago, I took a job as a radio newscaster in a country whose constitution guaranteed free speech “within the limits of the law.”
A central editorial team wrote our news for us. Most news items seemed designed not to inform but to promote nationalism; they always opened with news of what the ruler did or said that day, emphasizing his vision and achievements. If the government had a political dispute with another country, I wasn’t allowed to name that country.
If there was a political scandal, we never broadcast it. In fact, we couldn’t broadcast anything that might reflect negatively on the government or the local population—and that included drugs, sex and HIV/AIDS.
In time, I won the right to write my own news. I tested my limits sometimes, but there were lines I didn’t dare cross, and I censored myself regularly out of fear–of what, no one specifically stated: Losing my job? Arrest? Jail? Deportation? I worked in a state of ongoing anxiety.
I got into trouble with authorities once when, out of habit, I used a geographical term commonly used in the US but politically incorrect in the country where I was working.
Across the globe, teachers, artists, clerics and ordinary citizens are denied freedoms guaranteed by the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights — to gather, to petition, to express opinions in books, paintings, cartoons, songs and social media–even the right to dress as they choose. They face the same anxiety as I did–and far worse: Loss of jobs, harassment, intimidation, jail, torture and even death.
RePRESSed will highlight the stories of those who have been silenced and explore ongoing debates about free speech, free expression and whether–and to what extent–they should be regulated. And RePRESSed will encourage you, the reader, to comment and share your own thoughts, experiences and stories.