WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY

 

The universal declaration of human rights 10 December 1948 / public domain photograph

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Paris, December 10, 1948



Last week PEN America applauded the introduction of two tandem bipartisan Congressional resolutions marking World Press Freedom Day, recognizing “widening threats to freedoms of the press and expression around the world, reaffirming the centrality of a free and independent press to the health of democracy, and reaffirming freedom of the press as a priority of the United States in promoting democracy, human rights and good governance.”

In the United States Senate, the resolution was proposed by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bill Casey (D-PA), along with 10 others. In the House of Representatives, the resolution has been introduced by the two co-chairs of the Press Freedom Caucus, Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Steve Chabot (R-OH).

PEN America’s Washington Director, Thomas O. Melia, commended these initiatives:

“It is more important than ever before that public officials in America speak up for the press, as the threats against journalists on every continent are mounting day by day. That these initiatives command bipartisan support in Congress is heartening, given the fractious nature of politics these days.”

Eleanor Roosevelt and United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Spanish text. / Public domain photograph

Since 1993, the United Nations has recognized World Press Freedom Day annually around the globe on May 3. It has been a day dedicated to affirming the fundamental principles of press freedom, celebrating the positive impact journalism has on communities, honoring journalists for the work they do to hold the powerful accountable, and standing up on behalf of those who have been silenced, imprisoned, or killed for their work as journalists.

In addition to citing the authoritative research and advocacy for press freedom by Freedom House*, the Committee to Protect Journalists**, and Reporters Without Borders, both resolutions specifically refer to the recipients of the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award in 2018—the Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, sentenced in September 2018 to seven years in prison for their reporting on atrocities committed by the Burmese military against the Rohingya minority in Myanmar.  The 2019 recipients referenced in the two Congressional resolutions are writer-activists Nouf Abdulaziz, Loujain Al-Hathloul, and Eman Al-Nafjan who have been subjected to imprisonment, solitary confinement, and torture by the Saudi Arabian government as part of its brutal crackdown on individuals who raise their voices in defense of women’s rights in the Kingdom.

The full text of the U.S. Senate resolution can be found HERE.

Brad Hoylman courtesy of Mchida under

Also, according to PEN America, on May 3, The New York State Senate introduced and passed a resolution to mark World Press Freedom Day, affirming the centrality of the free press to our democracy. The resolution, sponsored by Senator Brad Holyman, is intended galvanize New York support and protection for press freedom at a time when attacks on journalists are on the rise in this country and amid declines in local news that would otherwise inform civic participation. Senator Holyman stated:

“Free expression is more important than ever as we witness journalists threatened, jailed and killed across the world, including in the United States,” said New York Senator Brad Holyman, sponsor of the resolution. “I’m proud to stand up for the integrity of a free and open press by passing this resolution, and grateful to PEN America for their essential work to safeguard free expression in New York and across the country.”

* Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

** Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is an American independent non-profit, non-governmental organization, based in New York City, New York with correspondents around the world. CPJ promotes press freedom and defends the rights of journalists. The American Journalism Review has called the organization “Journalism’s Red Cross”

*** Reporters Without Borders also known under its original name Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), is an international non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Paris that conducts political advocacy on issues relating to freedom of information and freedom of the press. According to RSF only 9% of people live in a country where press freedom is good. 

*****

This post courtesy of PEN America, the United Nations, Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders, and Wikipedia

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. 

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