Quote is from John Milton. Today, May 3, is World Press Freedom Day. Should you where a button? March? Attend a rally? Probably not. But think about freedom of the press for a little while.
Freedom House, an NGO devoted to issues of human rights and democracy, released a study last week that found that press freedom around the world has declined over 2008.
The study indicates that there were twice as many losses as gains in 2008, with declines and stagnation in East Asia of particular concern. While parts of South Asia and Africa made progress, overall these gains were overshadowed by a campaign of intimidation targeting independent media, particularly in the former Soviet Union and the Middle East and North Africa.
There were some notable improvements. The Maldives made the study’s largest jump, moving to the Partly Free category with the adoption of a new constitution protecting freedom of expression and the release of a prominent journalist from life imprisonment. Guyana regained its Free rating with fewer attacks on journalists and a government decision to lift a boycott on advertising in the main independent newspaper.
Out of the 195 countries and territories covered in the study, 70 (36 percent) are rated Free, 61 (31 percent) are rated Partly Free and 64 (33 percent) are rated Not Free. This represents a modest decline from the 2008 survey in which 72 countries and territories were Free, 59 Partly Free and 64 Not Free. The new survey found that only 17 percent of the world’s population lives in countries that enjoy a Free press.
A free press has always been one of the few issues on which I feel comfortable taking an unequivocal position. A free press seems, at least to me, to be one of the few things from which every single society will benefit.
What can you do about it? Donate some money to Reporters Without Borders. Or at join the Free Roxana Saberi Facebook group.
One more quote, courtesy of the World Press Freedom Day website: “A free press can of course be good or bad, but, most certainly, without freedom it will never be anything but bad.”