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Free Press Under Seige Worldwide


Journalists around the world continue to risk harassment, arrest, and even death to report the news. One of the most deadly places for journalists is the Philippines. Vincent Brossel of Reporters Without Borders says fifty-two journalists were killed in the Philippines over the past decade – fifteen in the past two years:

"When you have free press, you have critiques on the authorities, on the Mafia, and the religious groups. So all these peoples sometime try to put pressure, including physically, on the journalists, and this is what happened in the Philippines."

In Colombia, eleven journalists have been murdered in the past five years. In Russia, contract killings pose a grave threat to journalists. In Cuba, twenty-two journalists are imprisoned. China, says Reporters Without Borders, is "the world's biggest prison for journalists." Amie Jool Cole is a journalist from Gambia, where reporters have had their houses burned down and a senior news editor was murdered. Those in power, she says, think journalists are either with them or against them:

"They forget that we are not there for them. We are performing an essential task. And when they take over, whether it's by a military coup or through rigged elections or clean elections, we're still there to make sure that we are the watchdogs of society and when you start questioning or reporting things about them, then they don't see you in a good light. And, then, that's how they start to harass people."

Article Nineteen of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the. . . .freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." This right is widely acknowledged in principle and widely denied in practice. But as U.S. President James Madison said in 1822, "A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.

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