Difference Day: Should we celebrate or mourn press freedom?

L-r Antoine Kaburahe, Melody Patry, Jean-Paul Marthoz, Thierry Chervel, Abdualla Maksour and Rudi Vranckx at the Difference Day World Wide Worries About Free Reporting debate

L-R Antoine Kaburahe, Melody Patry, Jean-Paul Marthoz, Thierry Chervel, Abdualla Maksour and Rudi Vranckx discuss world wide worries about free reporting

This week’s Difference Day conference in Brussels was all about celebrating press freedom. “Should we instead mourn press freedom?” asked Jean-Paul Marthoz, EU correspondent for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Journalists and media professionals from across the world attended the World Press Freedom Day event at the Bozar Centre for Fine Arts on 3 May.

Marthoz was joined at the World Wide Worries About Free Press debate by Index on Censorship’s senior advocacy officer Melody Patry, journalist Thierry Chervel, founder and director of Burundi-based newspaper IWACU Antoine Kaburahe, conflict journalist Rudi Vranckx, and Syrian journalist and novelist Abdualla Maksour.

Patry drew attention to the work of those who fight to protect press freedom. She said although she can understand the position of “pessimists among us today”, having “a day to celebrate journalism and the free press already shows that we are attached to the idea that we need to support and protect the standards of journalism across the world, and highlight the work of journalists who are imprisoned and even killed for reporting the news”.

Conflict journalist Rudi Vranckx was less optimistic. He told of how every translator he worked with in Iraq, Syria, Gaza and Egypt has since been forced to flee their home.

Vranckx’s concerns were shared by Maksour who, holding a sign with the Aleppo is burning hashtag, highlighted the situation in Syria, stating that 15 civilians had died there on that morning alone.

“You can’t find a foreign journalist out there because it is very dangerous – they will be arrested or be killed,” said Maksour, adding that the situation prevents us from seeing the real picture of what is going on in Syria.

In an earlier debate, EU Media, Censorship and Propaganda, Patry introduced Index on Censorship’s Mapping Media Freedom project and took part in a discussion with Marthoz, Jakub Kalensky of the East StratCom Task Force and Maria Donde, Ofcom’s international policy manager.

The debate focused on ways to counter propaganda with information that is readily and safely available for anyone, so that people can make up their own mind.

“People, of course, should have access to as wide a range of information as possible, but what’s continually important is for them to have critical understanding to be able to tell the difference between a fabricated, exaggerated, poorly sourced story and what is a credible news source,” Donde said.

Patry, agreeing with Donde, suggested people shouldn’t necessarily believe everything they see on the TV. “Journalists doing a good job, verifying sources, and verifying information is also part of improving the wider environment for press freedom and pluralism in Europe,” she added.

Difference Day showed that press freedom never comes without challenges. It may be time to ask ourselves seriously: is it time to mourn or celebrate?

Turkish journalist faces jail for “insulting a public official”

Kemal Göktaş (Photo: @kemalgoktas)

Kemal Göktaş (Photo: @kemalgoktas)

A Turkish journalist was charged on Tuesday for “insulting a public official“.

Kemal Göktaş, a reporter for Turkish paper Milliyet, faces up to two years and four months in prison for criticising the sentence of a police officer who beat a woman in custody. The victim called for eight years imprisonment, but the officer was handed down a one-year jail sentence.

Göktaş’s last article on the case appeared on Milliyet’s website on 6 October. He told Agos that his case is not only a violation of press freedom, but also a human rights violation. He is will testify on 14 November.

In 2009, Göktaş was acquitted of similar charges after publishing articles criticising “general surveillance permission“.

The incident was reported to mediafreedom.ushahihi.com, Index on Censorship’s media violations mapping project.


This article was originally posted on indexoncensorship.org 

Chavez government attacks free press

A Venezuelan minister in Hugo Chavez’s government has announced plans to regulate cable subscription stations, saying the state would be “strict and severe” demonstrating this by fining opposition network Globovisión $2.3 million US dollars. Read more here