Saturday, May 3, 2008

World Press Freedom Day

UNESCO has designated May 3rd as World Press Freedom Day, noting the anniversary of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. It’s so easy to take freedom of expression for granted in the U.S., but many writers — and bloggers — are not so lucky.

This year’s focus is press censorship in China, especially with the Olympics coming up. The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) provides animated commentary:

What can you do to show your support for World Press Freedom Day? Support Amnesty International USA’s “Call for an Olympic Year of Freedom of Expression in China.” This web site link allows you to send an email message to Chinese representatives urging release of journalists imprisoned for speech issues, including Shi Tao:
Using his Yahoo! account, he emailed a US-based website, sharing the details of an internal government directive barring media reports that could fuel unrest during the 15th anniversary of Tiananmen Square crackdown. Shi was sentenced to 10 years in prison for “illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities.” Disturbingly, Yahoo! provided information to the government for his prosecution. Call on the Chinese Government to release Shi Tao from detention immediately and unconditionally, to ensure that foreign and domestic journalists are provided full media freedom and that the right to freedom of expression and information is protected online.
Today’s mitzvah: How might you support World Press Freedom Day?


Finn said...

I hadn't heard about Shi Tao. It's a perfect example of how you can't expect business to respect or uphold freedoms in society because they will only act in their own interest. I have my homepage set to Yahoo, but I think for World Press Freedom Day I will select a new homepage and never use Yahoo again. Then I will encourage everyone I know to avoid yahoo as well.

jen x said...

Finn, I agree that pressure by consumers is the only way these companies will change their ways. I should add that Yahoo is not alone in aiding online repression in China, although I think they're the only company that has actually taken the extreme step of turning over email messages. MSN has closed down blogs at the Chinese government's request, and Google censors -- they may call it "filtering" -- search engine results. AI has more about this issue here. I'm not sure about the progress of the House bill they reference, but it would be good to see these American companies supporting their own country's Constitution, instead of selling out just to get a piece of the China market.

Good for you for taking a stand.