There is little denying the fact that the United Nations is a toothless organization. Grab a map and let your eyes wander in any direction to prove my point. South Sudan is only one example in Africa that jumps out at you if your eyes wander south, head further and see areas where the ice is melting and providing the added threat of icebergs to Japanese whaling vessels. Head east to North Korea or further east to regions of sexual slavery and malaria. Head north and, you get point. The United Nations doesn’t do much right but does have a knack for naming days. Today marks the 20th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day. Does this make journalists from Syria to Mexico, Russia to Pakistan safer? It does not. It does, however, mark an occasion where the world and those that report the news can take a moment to think of how big of a challenge and often how dangerous that can be. Toothless organization or not, today provides a day to celebrate the lives of those who lost theirs in a quest for the truth.
In Mexico supporters rallied for crime reporter Regina Martinez. The correspondent for news magazine Proceso, was found beaten and strangled to death in her home in Xalapa, in eastern Veracruz state in 2012. While authorities continue to claim she was killed in a botched robbery of her home, that is a though sell when you consider the work she did criticizing Mexican drug cartels and the government corruption that allows them to operate with impunity in certain areas of the country.
At the same time, American Marie Colvin and Mika Yamamoto of Japan have been named “World Press Freedom Heroes” by the International Press Institute. They are among 39 journalists killed in the Syrian conflict last year as they attempted to report on the civil war there.
What is Press Freedom Day?
Today is not only a memorial but a reminder that journalists needn’t die to suffer. Authoritarian regimes regularly threaten, harass, and incarcerate those who try to provide the truth. Iran alone has seen 16 journalists kidnapped in recent months.
UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon, praised members of the media and spoke of a new intergovernmental plan to protect them:
“There is more that we can do, including greater protections through the rule of law. I urge all involved to do their utmost to translate the words of the plan into actions on the ground that will create a safer environment for the press.”
I have little faith that will do much but it’s a nice sentiment.