World Press Freedom Day

26 martyrs: Journalists are still murdered for furthering freedom of information as a human right.

May 03, 2001

AMERICANS take a free press for granted. Ours was established by the end of the 18th century. The struggle is to gather the information we are already free to publish.

Elsewhere, the fight is more fundamental. The rights to know, find out, write and speak are withheld in many places. People still die informing citizens, still get murdered for doing it too well.

On World Press Freedom Day, today, the Newseum in Arlington, Va., is adding 26 names of journalists who died in 2000 doing their jobs. Many were assassinated. They worked in newspaper, magazine, news agency, radio, television and online journalism. The killers were governments, rebels and criminals.

Three were killed in Colombia, Russia and Sierra Leone; two in Bangladesh, India and the Philippines; and one each in Brazil, Georgia, Guatemala, Haiti, Mozambique, Pakistan, Somalia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Ukraine and Uruguay.

One was an American, Kurt Schork, working for a British agency, Reuters. Another was a Spaniard, Miguel Gil Moreno de Mora, working for an American agency, Associated Press Television News. They were shot together by rebels in Sierra Leone.

UNESCO held a conference in Windhoek, Namibia, in 1991 to advance freedom and diversity of the press. Today is the 10th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration. In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly adopted World Press Freedom Day as an annual event on May 3.

This year's UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize was awarded by an independent committee of journalists to U Win Tin of Myanmar (Burma). He was sentenced in 1989 to 14 years of prison for writing about dictatorship, with five years added for possessing writing materials there. He is seriously ill, due out in 2008. Guillermo Cano, for whom the prize is named, was a Colombian editor assassinated for reporting on drug lords.

In this country, we have it easy. Elsewhere, basic rights are still denied, and courageous journalists are still imprisoned, harassed and tortured for reporting that. This day is for them.

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