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World Press Day
Price of Freedom

World Press Day
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights 
  • Freedom of the Press Wantonly Violated :... (by )
  • The Development of Freedom of the Press ... (by )
  • The Russian press (by )
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As the saying goes, “Freedom isn’t free.” It should be every free person’s daily mantra. Those born with it take it for granted. But the cost for freedom is steep, as both historical accounts and contemporary freedom fighters tell us. 

The United Nations General Assembly marked May 3 as World Press Freedom Day in order to bring awareness to the ever-present issue of freedom of the press, reminding governments to uphold the freedom of expression as a basic human right. Human expression entails that, as written in a simplified version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, “we all have the right to make up our own minds, to think what we like, to say what we think, and to share our ideas with other people wherever they live, through books, radio, television and in other ways.”

Each year since 1997, UNESCO has awarded the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize to a person or organization that defended freedom of press and journalists especially against tyrannical or violent forces. The 2017 recipient of the award was Eritrean-Swedish playwright and journalist Dawit Isaak, who was imprisoned for reporting on a group called “G-15” who criticized the President Isaias Afewerki and made demands on their Eritrean government that they hold elections. He is still imprisoned today, and the President Afewerki is reported to have said in 2009, "We will not have any trial and we will not free him. We know how to handle his kind." In 2016, the Freedom Prize was awarded to Khadija Ismayilova, an Azerbaijani radio host and journalist who reported on undisclosed assets of the the Azerbaijan presidential family through the media investigative center Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. Ismayilova was blackmailed and then arrested on bogus charges that she had incited a coworker to commit suicide. 
The award was named after editor Guillermo Cano Isaza, the founder of El Espectador, a national Colombian newspaper. El Espectador was particularly critical and outspoken about the influence of drug traffickers on Colombia’s politics. “What this country really needs is not money, metal, pure materialism, but a deep resurgence of morals in both public and private sectors,” Isaza wrote. “Drug trafficking has corrupted us, the buying and selling of influence has corrupted us, the rush for easy money has corrupted us.” He was murdered in 1986 outside the paper’s offices by hitmen paid by Pablo Escobar.

For more reading on stories of the free press, read Liberal Visions of the Freedom of the Press by Michael J. Gerhardt, Freedom of the Press Wantonly Violated, The Development of Freedom of the Press in Massachusetts by Clyde Augustus Duniway, and The Russian Press by Scythicus.

By Thad Higa



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