Let jour­nal­ists do their jobs

The Myanmar Times - - News -

WHEN Turk­ish ed­i­tor Can Dün­dar was thrown into soli­tary con­fine­ment last year for pub­lish­ing news that em­bar­rassed the govern­ment, he dis­cov­ered that not only cell­phones and lap­tops but even flow­ers and coloured pens were for­bid­den.

Now Dün­dar is in ex­ile, but scores of his com­pa­tri­ots are still locked up – Turkey is “the world’s big­gest prison for jour­nal­ists”, he noted last week – and Turkey is hardly alone. “Vir­tu­ally ev­ery cor­ner of the Earth is now threat­ened by the rise of na­tion­al­ist, au­thor­i­tar­ian fac­tions that seek to de­stroy di­ver­sity and re­place it with a gray, con­crete cell.”

Dün­dar was hon­oured by the Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists in a cer­e­mony in Man­hat­tan last week that was more warn­ing than cel­e­bra­tion. Around the world, jour­nal­ists are be­ing killed, im­pris­oned and threat­ened for

‘Democ­racy can­not func­tion un­less cit­i­zens can be in­formed, through fair news cov­er­age and not pro­pa­ganda, of the ac­tiv­i­ties of their rulers.’

do­ing their jobs – and while they pay the most di­rect price for their courage, peo­ple ev­ery­where suf­fer when their gov­ern­ments can no longer be held to ac­count. As an­other hon­oree, Malini Subra­ma­niam, told us dur­ing a re­cent visit to The Washington Post, “The govern­ment would rather keep it all quiet.”

Subra­ma­niam was re­fer­ring to the con­flict she has sought to il­lu­mi­nate in the east-cen­tral In­dian state of Ch­hat­tis­garh. When she wrote about sex­ual as­saults and un­jus­ti­fied shoot­ings by se­cu­rity forces, she found her­self and her daugh­ter un­der threat and forced to flee. So, for a time, did Ós­car Martínez, who came un­der pres­sure from both gangs and govern­ment of­fi­cials when he re­ported on the vi­cious gang wars in El Sal­vador, Gu­atemala and Hon­duras. Mean­while free­lance pho­tog­ra­pher Mah­moud Abou Zeid, also known as Shawkan, has been im­pris­oned in Egypt for more than three years, merely for seek­ing to doc­u­ment clashes be­tween Egyp­tian se­cu­rity forces and protesters in Cairo.

Some of these sto­ries may seem more rel­e­vant to Amer­i­cans than others; the soar­ing mur­der rate in Cen­tral Amer­ica helps fuel im­mi­gra­tion to the United States. But no mat­ter how re­mote their cov­er­age may seem, these In­ter­na­tional Press Free­dom Award win­ners share a con­vic­tion that is as es­sen­tial to Amer­i­cans as ev­ery­one else: Democ­racy can­not func­tion un­less cit­i­zens can be in­formed, through fair news cov­er­age and not pro­pa­ganda, of the ac­tiv­i­ties of their rulers.

The Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists, an in­de­pen­dent, non­profit or­gan­i­sa­tion, noted re­cently that US at­ti­tudes to­ward the press can have an out­sised in­flu­ence across the world. In a Novem­ber 17 let­ter to US Vice Pres­i­dent-elect Mike Pence, who was a found­ing mem­ber of the Con­gres­sional Cau­cus for the Free­dom of the Press, CPJ ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Joel Si­mon warned of “the dan­ger that ha­rass­ment of the press in the United States will be used as a pre­text by re­pres­sive lead­ers around the world to per­se­cute their crit­ics.”

“Pres­i­dent-elect Trump has ob­structed ma­jor news or­ga­ni­za­tions, at­tacked re­porters by name, and con­trib­uted to a threat­en­ing cli­mate for jour­nal­ists cov­er­ing the elec­tion,” Si­mon wrote. “These ac­tions in the United States set a ter­ri­ble ex­am­ple for the rest of the world.”

– The Washington Post

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