World Press Freedom Day

Obviously of particular poignance today, considering its relevance to events in North Africa and the Middle East as well as to the harassment and detention of artists and dissidents in China.

And that’s exactly why, according to David M. Hoffman, we should be celebrating the fact that press freedom and access to information are actually growing, in spite of alarming and high profile incidences of information crackdowns (see below). It’s a great opinion piece, with a great hook: “we’re looking through the wrong end of the telescope.”

World Press Freedom day events are being hosted by UNESCO in Washington, DC this year. There’s a live stream if you’re so inclined.

The usual roundups are also available, and easily perused over lunchtime, from Reporters without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Reporters without Borders identifies 38 “predators of press freedom.” (Spoiler: they’re primarily found in the places where revolutions are percolating.)

The Committee to Protect Journalists, meanwhile, offers up “The 10 Tools of Online Oppressors.” It’s an illuminating look at the evolving means of Internet censorship deployed by governments bent on keeping people in the dark.

According to CPJ there are currently 145 imprisoned journalists today worldwide, and 16 have been killed for doing their jobs so far in 2011.

[Above: one of the scariest pictures I’ve seen all year, taken by Reuters’ Goran Tomasevic]

Wis. governor signs law protecting reporters, sources | AP

With the signing of Assembly Bill 333, Wisconsin becomes the 37th State (plus D.C.) to pass a law that says journalists, in some cases, don’t have to out their confidential sources or turn over unpublished notes or information when a court or other government body orders them to do so.

Kansas adopted a similar law a month ago. (HB 2585; PDF available here.)

The language of both of the new laws define a “journalist” or “news person” as a person or entity “who disseminates news or information to the public.” The definitions are reflective of the ongoing challenge in defining journalism as its means evolve online.

What about you, Tumblrers? Facebookers? You use an electronic means of publishing to disseminate news and information to the public; does that mean you should have special legal privilege to keep your secrets?

World Press Freedom Day

Today: May 3, 2010.

Just a few links and ruminations to mark the occasion, but I do hope you’ll consider where the human race might be without the ever controversial and never perfect notion of “freedom of the press.”

At the Guardian, Dr. Agnès Callamard, the executive director of ARTICLE 19, observes the particular importance of access to information to advancing press freedom. I think you could rightly say that without the former, the latter is virtually worthless. Even in places like the U.S. and Great Britain that purport to have an unfettered press, limits and resistance to government transparency and freedom of information can act as a tourniquet.   

The BBC highlights a study released today by Reporters Without Borders that names and shames the globe’s most dangerous press freedom “predators.” Among the study’s findings is a fact that is not well-known here in the U.S.: Mexico is one of the worlds most dangerous places to do journalism. Reporters there are routinely kidnapped and murdered by criminal syndicates for doing their jobs.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, whose research tends to skew a bit more conservative than that of Reporters Without Borders, 10 journalists have been killed for their work so far in 2010; another 14 are listed as “motive unconfirmed.”