World Press Freedom Day — May 3rd

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May 3rd was proclaimed the international day of press freedom in 1993 by the United Nations General Assembly. It “celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom” in order to “evaluate” it all around the globe, “defend the media from attacks on their independence” and ultimately to pay homage to journalists “who lost their lives in the exercise of their profession”. In 1997, the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize was created by UNESCO, named after late Columbian journalist Guillermo Cano Isaza, murdered in 1986 in Bogotá by hitmen linked to drug cartels. The latter served as the editor of the oldest newspaper in Columbia, El Espectador,  whose motto has remained the following: “El Espectador will work for the good of the country with liberal criteria and for the good of the liberal principles with patriotic criteria”. Guillermo Cano Isaza was a strong voice against drug barons in his country. The prize thus honours people, associations or institutions which have contributed to the defense or promotion of press freedom around the world, especially when facing danger.

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This year, Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova was the laureate of the prize. She worked several years as the head of the Azerbaijani service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty before she started working on a series of articles tackling state-level corruption in her country, and dared to include the name of today’s president, Aliyev, officially in her list of corrupt statesmen. Although Ismayilova is an investigative journalist, her work has engendered great controversies due to the fact that the media is controlled by the state in Azerbaijan. She was detained in December 2014 and September 2015, accused of tax evasion and abuse of power, and was sentenced to seven and a half years in jail. She was awarded the prestigious prize for her professionalism accordingly to the circumstances in which she exercised her job. Ljiljana Zurovac, President of the Jury, underlined that Ismayilova “highly deserves the Prize and [she is] happy to see that her courage and professionalism are recognized”. In a statement, the journalist pledged to continue to fight, even from prison. She writes: “I am going to have an opportunity to expose [abuses in] the penitentiary services,” asserting that she is “one of those people who knows how to turn a problem into an opportunity” (read more at The Guardian).

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SOME SHATTERING FACTS

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) published a report in February of this year listing that 2,297 journalists had been killed exercising their profession since 1990, adding that in 2015 alone, as many as 112 of them had been killed (report). In 2015, out of 72 journalists killed whose death’s motives hadbeen confirmed, 69% of them were ruled as murders, and 60% of them had previously been threatened (report published by the Committee To Protect Journalists). Without any legitimate motives, a number of journalists are today imprisoned, tortured and killed for exercising their profession. Thus, violence against the media has not cease to increase over the past years.

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In 2016, we shall keep fighting against those unjust crimes perpetuated on those who pledge to inform and educate, those who speak out against corruption and stand up for humanity, those who use their voice to speak for the ones who have been silenced, those who risk their lives for a greater good.

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+ May I recommend you to watch Spotlight, 2016 Academy Award Best Picture winner, directed by Tom McCarthy, starring Michael Keaton, John Slattery, Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo. Based on a true story, the movie depicts in a powerful way how investigative journalism works, and the impact it can have.

+ I’d like to add a special thanks to Mark Aldrich for posting numerous articles which sheds light on injustice committed upon journalists. Mark uses his voice to spread the names of those victims of injustice. Make sure to check his blog right here.

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How do you feel about this?

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