"If I do wrong, write about me. If the queens do wrong, write about them. If my sons and daughters do wrong, write about them. If the judges and mayors do wrong, write about them. No one shall take action against the journalists for writing the truth. They shall go in and out of the palace freely."
-King Mindon (1853 - 1878)
King Mindon, the second last Burmese monarch, gave Burma a reputation as having one of the freest presses in Asia through his enactment of 17 Articles ensuring immunity of the press.
Since then, press freedom has fluctuated with the near complete muzzling of the press under the current regime. Today, all forms of expression in Burma are strictly controlled and censored by instruments of the military junta. Defenders of the press are subject to a series of arbitrary laws, ranking Burma as one of the worst enemies of press freedom in the world.
Throughout the world, 3 May serves as an occasion to inform the public of violations of the right to freedom of expression and as a reminder that many journalists brave death or jail to bring people their daily news.
World Press Freedom Day honours sacrifices around the world made for freedom of the press and reminds governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression that is enshrined under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993, the day is celebrated each year on May 3, the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek, a statement of free press principles put together by African newspaper journalists in 1991.
UNESCO marks World Press Freedom Day by conferring the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize on a deserving individual, organization or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the defence and/or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, especially when this has been achieved in the face of danger. Created in 1997, the prize is awarded on the recommendation of an independent jury of 14 news professionals. Names are submitted by regional and international non-governmental organizations working for press freedom, and by UNESCO Member States.
The Prize is named in honour of Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian journalist who was assassinated in front of the offices of his newspaper, El Espectador, in Bogotá, on December 17 1986. Cano's writings had offended Colombia's powerful drug barons.
The 2006 Prize has been awarded to Lebanese journalist May Chidiac, a popular television news presenter who survived an assassination attempt in Beirut on 25 September 2005. She lost her left hand and leg when a bomb strapped to her car detonated minutes after she got in. She has come to be seen as a symbol of freedom of expression in Lebanon, where the assassinations of two colleagues - Lebanese columnist Samir Kassir and newspaper publisher Gebran Tueni - in 2005 shocked the nation.
Here in the UK, many of us, have felt the oppression of police / state, not wanting their activities recorded by a free press.
Union calls for case against photographer to be dropped [2 May 2006].
The NUJ will today call on magistrates in Nottingham to throw out the police case against freelance photographer Alan Lodge as "an affront to the principles of a free press". Alan was arrested and charged with obstructing the police after taking pictures of armed officers in central Nottingham. He is due to appear at an interim hearing this morning.
Alan Lodge was arrested photographing police action in a public area of Nottingham city centre. He was arrested after asserting his rights under guidelines agreed between local police and the NUJ to improve police media relations. And whilst he was released several hours later his photographic equipment was impounded preventing him from working.
Alan will be joined at the court today by campaigners from the union's Nottingham Branch as well as NUJ President Chris Morley.
NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear said: "This case has enormous repercussions and is vital for the exercise of press freedom. Alan had a perfect right to photograph in a public place a matter of clear public interest. If the court takes away that right then all of us will suffer as it will have a chilling effect on the exercise of press freedom. The court should throw these ludicrous charges out and make a clear statement about the rights of press photographers.
"Police guidelines on how to handle the media are no good on paper if officers break them out on the streets. This shows the vital need for senior officers to educate street level officers about the rights and responsibilities of media."
Nottingham NUJ Branch Secretary Kevin Stanley said: "This incident makes a mockery of the guidelines that the chief constable signed up to at the beginning of the year".
NUJ website at http://www.nuj.org.uk
Nottingham photographer arrested by armed officers
Indymedia photographer arrested by armed officers [feature]
World Press Freedom Day
Fanning the Flame of Tolerance: The Role of the Media
UN World Press Freedom Day
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message on World Press Freedom Day, observed 3 May
Wikipedia on World Press Freedom Day
Photographer - Media: One Eye on the Road. Nottingham. UK
WAP phone http://wappy.to/tash
My Blog http://tash_lodge.blogspot.com
Member of the National Union of Journalists [No: 014345]
"It is not enough to curse the darkness.
It is also necessary to light a lamp!!"
OS Grid Ref: SK 575414 - Lat/Lon: 52:58:03N, 1:08:38W