May 3: The Fight for Press Freedom never Lets up [Archives:2000/18/Focus]

May 1 2000

By: Mohammed Hatem Al-Qadhi
“Journalists must seek and speak the truth, for we are the voice of the voiceless millions” Razia Bhatti, Journalist, Pakistan.
According to a report released by the World Association of Newspapers, 71 journalists were murdered in 19 countries in 1999 and 80 journalists remain in prison in 18 countries. The third of May is the World Press Freedom Day. This day exists to recognize the scarifies made in the struggle for the freedom of the press and to put pressure on governments that continue to deny this basic human right. The message of this day is that journalists must be given the right to report freely in all corners of the world. It also marks a worldwide condemnation of regressive and oppressive regimes which still deny free expression and press freedom as a fundamental human goal and tries to silence journalists as well. It reminds us that free ideas, opinion and information and open debate and discussions have to be tolerated since they are of the most basic of human rights and the cornerstone of a democracy. In other words, freedom of expression and its corollary, freedom of the press, have to become a basic element of democratic societies. However, freedom of the press is not merely a basic human right enjoyed by journalists. Rather it plays a very important role in leading the drive of social and economic development.
I would like in this respect to quote the president of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn, who said:” A free press is not a luxury. A free press is at the absolute core of equitable development because if you cannot enfranchise poor people, if they do not have a right to expression, if there is no searchlight on corruption and inequitable practices, you can not build the public consensus needed to bring about change. Most striking, what sets the poor apart from the rich is a lack of voice.”
We in Yemen should not let this occasion pass unnoticed. We should celebrate this not for the sake of celebration as we always do in other occasions. But we should remind the government of its oppression against journalists. We should remind the people in authority that censorship still exists only in the dictionary of despots and repressive regimes. They should know that the most important detriment of freedom is the absence of criticism and that criticism is one of the vital elements of a democracy. We in this day give a loud call to stop harassment of journalists and suspending or closing down of newspapers.
Finally, brave guys all over the world will continue resisting the abuse of power and ” struggle to provide a platform for advocates of pluralism and opposition to arbitrary rule.” And as long as the brave people are there, the fight for press freedom will never lets up. Happy day for all journalists all over the globe.