In many countries around the world, journalists intent on telling the truth about repression, corruption, and criminality must risk their liberty and their lives to do so.
In many countries around the world, journalists intent on telling the truth about repression, corruption, and criminality must risk their liberty and their lives to do so. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 2013 was the second worst year on record for journalists, with 211 imprisoned and more than 100 killed.
In a memorial speech in honor of slain American journalist Daniel Pearl, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power underscored the critical importance the United States places on a free media and the duty of governments to ensure access to information – in part, crucially, so that governments can be held accountable to their citizens.
But as Ambassador Power pointed out, many governments try to corrupt, intimidate, and manipulate the press. Their methods include bribery; parceling out licenses to friends or others willing to practice self-censorship; imposing strict limitations on the Internet and social networks; hiring intermediaries to harass and attack reporters and editors; and enacting laws that equate criticism of the government with subversion, terrorism, or treason.
Ambassador Power cited several examples, including the case of Chinese reporter Liu Hu who was arrested in September for “defamation” after urging authorities to investigate a local official; the arrest of al Jazeera correspondents in Egypt; and the case of Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega, who continued to work online after his newspaper was closed, and was arrested and imprisoned in 2011 for protesting the arrest of other journalists under a sweeping new law.
“From Eritrea and Iran to Ukraine and Venezuela, there are many comparable stories,” said Ambassador Power.
But, she noted, as Thomas Jefferson affirmed 225 years ago, freedom of the press is the best means of ensuring that “all avenues of truth” are open to individual citizens, and the United States has made support for press freedom “one of the core and recurring themes of U.S. diplomacy.”
Each day, in ways public and private, U.S. officials “make known our backing for the right of people to speak, publish, broadcast, blog, tweet and otherwise express themselves openly and without fear,” said Ambassador Power. After all, she stressed, defending freedom of the press is but one element of a larger struggle: “a duty to be advocates for…the rights and dignity of every human being.”