World ponders uneven press freedoms
Observances of World Press Freedom Day today prompted some leaders to pardon imprisoned journalists while others endured criticism for failing to support press liberties.
This is precisely what the United Nations had in mind when it established World Press Freedom Day in 1993 to encourage the international community to constantly evaluate press freedoms and to defend the press from attacks on its independence.
"Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, enshrined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement. "But around the world, there are governments and those wielding power who find many ways to obstruct it."
To coincide with the special date, Sri Lanka freed journalist Jeyaprakash Tissainayagam, jailed and accused of aiding terrorists for writing about how Sri Lanka's civil war affected the Tamil minority, the BBC reported.
And British journalist Paul Martin, who spent part of February and March of this year in a Gaza strip jail, today publicly vowed to fight for imprisoned journalists, according to The Guardian.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) meanwhile blasted Cameroon's president for failing to prevent the death of imprisoned newspaper journalist Germain S. Ngota Ngota. Jailed on February 26, 2010, after investigating charges of corruption against presidential aid Laurent Esso, Ngoto died on April 22, 2010, due to complications from diabetes.
In an open letter, CPJ called on president H.E. Paul Biya to free three other newspaper editors that remain in jail for attempting to cover related presidential activities and to investigate and hold officials accountable for acts of torture.
World Press Freedom Day has its origins in discussions among African nations about democratic pluralism and press freedom held in Windhoek, Namibia in 1991.
That international round-table, which the UN convened, led to the Declaration of Windhoek, which called on all African nations to provide constitutional guarantees of press freedom, to dismantle press monopolies and to liberate immediately imprisoned journalists. The Windhoek Declaration commitments, which became the framework for Press Freedom Day, remain unfulfilled, however.
Intrepid Chilean journalist and UNESCO award recipient Mónica González Mujica says that the press environment in Latin America is deteriorating.
González, who made a career of taking risks in her investigative reporting during the Pinochet regime, sees dual threats to journalism from concentration of media ownership and press-averse authoritarian governments.