Press freedom matters because without a free press, few other human rights are attainable. A strong press freedom environment encourages the growth of civil society, which leads to stable democracies and political and economic development. That’s why the United States is highlighting journalists around the world who are suffering intimidation, imprisonment, and sometimes death for exercising their right to free expression.
Yoani Sanchez is a Cuban blogger who is not permitted to leave the country. She has attracted an international following for her blog, Generación Y, which gives readers unprecedented insight into the harsh realities of life in Cuba. Her work has won numerous awards, including Columbia University’s Maria Cabot prize for journalism, and the Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award in 2011. But Cuba’s Communist government has refused to allow her to leave the country to accept these honors. Requests by Ms. Sanchez to travel have been denied 19 times.
Freedom of movement is a fundamental human right recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United States urges the Cuban government to allow Ms. Sanchez to travel abroad freely and for all governments to stop the use of travel bans against journalists or dissidents for exercising their right to freedom of expression.
Elsewhere, Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen has been silenced by the Chinese government. Wangchen was detained by Chinese authorities in March 2008 on charges related to his 25-minute documentary titled “Leaving Fear Behind.” The film is based on 40 hours of footage and over 100 interviews conducted over five months. Filmed in China’s Amdo region (located principally in Qinghai Province), the footage includes interviews with Tibetans who expressed views on a range of issues from the Dalai Lama to the human rights situation in Tibetan areas of China.
Wangchen was reportedly beaten, deprived of food and sleep during interrogations, and held incommunicado for a full year. He was tried in secret in 2009 and is serving a six year sentence in Xichuan Prison, Qinghai Province.
The United States urges the Chinese government to respect the universal human rights of all Chinese citizens.
Press freedom is a fundamental human right that must be respected by all governments. The United States will continue to shine the spotlight of international attention on all those who abuse this basic human right.