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Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Global Toolbox

Take action for world press freedom

By Bruce C. Swaffield

May 3 is not just another day. This first Friday of the month will mark the 20th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day.

There are hundreds of reasons why we need to pause and reflect. Here are 10 reasons taken from the recent headlines at Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

• Photographer slain in Lima, police urged to explore link to work (Feb. 26, RSF).

• Radio host gunned down in northeast, drug trafficker suspected (Brazil, Feb. 26, RSF).

• Two, not three, journalists killed in Israeli air strike (Palestine, Feb. 26, RSF).

• French photographer killed in Syria's Idlib province (Feb. 25, CPJ).

• New radio stations threatened w i t h closure or prosecution (Tunisia, Feb. 25, RSF).

• Newspaper editor released after eight days (Nigeria, Feb. 25, RSF).

• Online journalist reported missing in Egypt (Feb. 25, CPJ).

• Well-known blogger hacked to death on Dhaka street (Bangladesh, Feb. 19, RSF).

• Journalist held for 23 days under vague Iraqi law (Feb. 19, CPJ).

• Maldives journalists assaulted in political violence (Feb. 13, CPJ).

These incidents alone should give us all the causes we need to demand changes abroad. Thankfully, we have such a day when we can promote the importance of a free and open press.

The observance began in 1993 when UNESCO proclaimed May 3 as a date “to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives.”

This year, UNESCO will commemorate the occasion with a three-day international conference, May 2 to 4, in San Jose, Costa Rica. The theme is “Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media.” Sub-themes to be explored include: “Ensuring the Safety of Journalists and Media Workers,” “Combatting Impunity of Crimes against Press Freedom” and “Online Safety.”

Please do something May 3 to emphasize the need for a free press everywhere in the world. For example, you could:

• Write a story for your paper, broadcast station, website or blog.

• Put a comment on Facebook or Twitter.

• Hold a special discussion during lunch in your newsroom or at your college newspaper office.

• Send an email or letter to an ambassador in a country where the press is being suppressed or censored.

• Make a short video commentary and post it on You- Tube.

• Place a small sign in the window of your car proclaiming, "Today is World Press Freedom Day."

These are just some ideas. Be creative. Talk it up and raise awareness that the media is under attack daily in dozens of nations. Because we live in a free society, we have the best opportunity to spread the word. Let’s not treat it like just another day. Do anything you can to help our colleagues overseas.

Four years ago, when I wrote a similar piece on World Press Freedom Day, I asked what people were planning to do. Please, shoot me an email and tell me what you did. I would like to share it with everyone in the next issue of Quill.

According to UNESCO, there will be observances in about 100 countries. Let’s add the United States to the list. For more details on the main event in Costa Rica, go to unesco.org and search for World Press Freedom Day 2013.

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