Freedom of the press is one of the foundation rights of the American people; the first of the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
It wasn’t until 1993, 202 years after the Bill of Rights was ratified, that the United Nations declared that access to information is a fundamental right of everyone.
Ensuring the fundamental right to information is a continuing battle. The Committee to Protect Journalists says 10 journalists have been killed so far this year. 199 journalists were imprisoned for their work in 2015. Amnesty International highlights nine journalists who have been jailed or killed for doing their jobs.
Reporters Without Borders has launched a “Great Year for Censorship” campaign to focus attention on the world’s most repressive regimes for press freedom. Freedom House says press freedom is at its lowest point in 12 years, with 46 percent of the world’s population living in countries whose media is not free.
Today in Bangkok, after a reporter shouted “Freedom of the press is freedom of the people,” Thailand’s Prime Minister turned, pointed at the reporter and said “Watch yourself.”
The Road to Damascus
Sonia Smith – Texas Monthly
Before he ever considered traveling to Syria, before he saw his byline in the Washington Post, and before he made worldwide news, Austin Tice had a revelation in the desert….It was 2011, and he was three months into his deployment at Camp Leatherneck, in southern Afghanistan, with his fellow Marines….
Excitedly, he hurried to his commander’s office and burst in. He knew what he was going to do, he announced: become a war photographer….
Austin’s exploits and his desire to document the war even at great personal risk inspired a blend of awe and worry among his friends back home. Their concerns prompted him to write a note on Facebook, later published on the Post website, that has since become something of a manifesto.
“People keep telling me to be safe (as if that’s an option), keep asking me why I’m doing this crazy thing, keep asking what’s wrong with me for coming here. So listen,” he wrote. “Our granddads stormed Normandy and Iwo Jima and defeated global fascism. Neil Armstrong flew to the Moon in a glorified trash can, doing math on a clipboard as he went. Before there were roads, the Pioneers put one foot in front of the other until they walked across the entire continent. Then a bunch of them went down to fight and die in Texas ’cause they thought it was the right thing to do. Sometime between when our granddads licked the Nazis and when we started putting warnings on our coffee cups about the temperature of our beverage, America lost that pioneering spirit. We became a fat, weak, complacent, coddled, unambitious and cowardly nation. . . . So that’s why I came here to Syria, and it’s why I like being here now, right now, right in the middle of a brutal and still uncertain civil war. Every person in this country fighting for their freedom wakes up every day and goes to sleep every night with the knowledge that death could visit them at any moment. They accept that reality as the price of freedom. . . . They’re alive in a way that almost no Americans today even know how to be. They live with greater passion and dream with greater ambition because they are not afraid of death. Neither were the Pioneers. Neither were our granddads. Neither was Neil Armstrong. And neither am I.”
Austin often referred to his time in Syria as his “crazy summer vacation,” but by mid-August he was ready for a break. He prepared to leave Damascus and head to the Lebanese border by car, for a few weeks of relaxation in Beirut, where he planned to meet a friend. But he never arrived. Austin’s stream of tweets, Google Chats, emails, and texts suddenly stopped, and messages to him went unreturned. His editors determined that the last time his satellite phone transmitted was August 13. After two months and 21 days in Syria, Austin Tice had vanished.
A Note From the Newsroom on World Press Freedom Day
Editorial Board – The Irrawaddy
If we Burmese have one thing to be thankful for on this World Press Freedom Day, it is that this year there are no journalists behind bars, imprisoned for doing their jobs….
Shortly after the country’s first civilian government in some 50 years assumed office on April 1, the administration released four journalists and their publication’s CEO, together with nearly 300 other political prisoners and others on trial for politically motivated offenses.
This condition—prisons without journalists—is a low but important bar for any country assessing its press freedom.
For Much of the World, Press Freedom Is a Distant Dream
Lisa LaFlamme – CTV News
Khadija Ismayilova is an investigative reporter from Azerbaijan.
She won the coveted prize in recognition of her outstanding contribution to press freedom in difficult circumstances. Khadija is a freelance journalist andcontributor to the Azerbaijani service of Radio Free Europe. She was detained in December 2014 and, in September 2015, was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years’ imprisonment on trumped up charges relating to abuse of power and tax evasion….
Just last week when I was in northern Iraq covering the war against ISIS, I was reminded again of how dangerous a free press is to any oppressor. The power of the press is a wicked and corrupt thing in the hands of the despots.
U.S. State Department Press Release