Along with the three pillars of government (legislature, executive, judiciary), freedom of the press is essential to the health of a democracy. That is why it is called the fourth pillar. The fourth estate is the press or broadcast media where the public is held accountable Edmund Brooke, an Anglo-Irish political theorist who lived between 1729-1797, first coined the masculine term power to refer to the press. The role played by the media in reflecting and shaping public opinion is crucial. The attacks on the media are proof that it is powerful. There are still restrictions on the media in many countries. If the restrictions put by the governments are one step, the pressure of the mafia gangs will be another step. Terrorist groups and drug mafia are always attacking the media. There are all journalists who are strong in the performance of duty. They are all deities for press freedom. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights talks about freedom of expression. That is the basis of freedom of the press.
In 1993, the United Nations proclaimed these human rights. Two years earlier in 1991, African journalists held a conference in Windhoek, Namibia from April 29 to May 3 and made a landmark declaration on press freedom. Censorship existed in many African countries. There were restrictions on press freedom. The United Nations has decided to celebrate World Press Freedom Day on May 3, when African journalists made a statement in protest. Since then (since 1993) we have been celebrating World Press Freedom Day on May 3 every year. On this occasion, UNESCO has been awarding the Guillermocano World Press Freedom Award every year since 1997 on May 3. This award is given to journalists who act fearlessly even in the face of danger and stand as a symbol of freedom of the press. The award carries a cash prize of US$ 25,000. Guillermocano was the editor of a Colombian newspaper. But Keno became a target of the drug mafia with his writings. On December 17, 1986, he was brutally murdered in front of his newspaper office. His martyrdom inspired freedom of the press.
All countries are not the same. In some countries the word freedom of the press should not be heard! Journalists are walking on fire in many countries. 75 journalists and 32 media workers were killed in 2006 alone. 63 journalists were killed in 2005. Over five hundred journalists have been killed in the past decade. In fact, if a journalist is killed in the line of duty, it’s not just a personal attack, it’s an attack on freedom of expression!
According to the charity, one-third of the world’s population lives in systems without freedom of the press. The situation in democracies is not good. Based on some indicators, the Reporters Without Borders organization has prepared a table and given rankings in terms of press freedom. India is ranked 105th in that table. While Pakistan is at 157th place, China is at 163rd place and DPR Korea is at the bottom of 168th place. The situation of freedom of press in countries like Cuba, Myanmar, Eritrea, Turkmenistan, Iran and Uzbekistan is worse. Finland, Iceland, Ireland and the Netherlands rank first in press freedom. Japan is at 51st place, America is at 53rd place and England is at 27th place. Italy is 40th. France’s 35th position is no. Germany is 23rd.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (EO) concluded that 580 journalists were killed worldwide from January 1992 to August 2006. 137 journalists have been killed since the start of the Iraq war. Even in our state, journalists are working under many threats. Our state government recently issued a curfew on freedom of the press and took a step back in response to the protest. Freedom of the press should be protected not by the press but by the people. Freedom of the press is declining in India. The recently released ‘World Press Freedom Index’ by the global media monitoring organization ‘Reporters Sans Frontiers’ (referred to as Reporters Without Borders in Telugu) makes it clear that press freedom in the country has dropped by three ranks compared to last year Frontiers commented that it is unfortunate that India has reached 136th place, close to neighboring Pakistan and Afghanistan. The watchdog said the decline in press freedom in India is due to Hindu nationalists’ intimidation of the media, increased self-regulation in the mainstream media, government critics being implicated in sedition cases with life sentences, and physical attacks on journalists.
Pic Courtesy: Mr.Fadi Abou Hassan Fadi ToOn