Today is World Press Freedom Day: We are human rights defenders from around the world, keen to answer anything you want to know about freedom of expression. Ask us anything!
The United Nations General Assembly declared May 3 to be World Press Freedom Day, a day that human rights defenders use to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Among the participants joining us today are:
• Toby Mendel, Executive Director, Centre for Law and Democracy
• Michael Karanicolas, Senior Legal Officer, Centre for Law and Democracy
• Jeremy Dear, Deputy Secretary General, International Federation of Journalists
• Ernest Sagaga, Head of Human Rights and Safety, International Federation of Journalists
• Monir Zaroour, Middle East and Arab World Coordinator, International Federation of Journalists
• Muhammad Aftab Alam, Component Lead, International Media Support (Pakistan)
• Nejib_Mokni, Project coordinator, ARTICLE 19 – Tunisia
• Tahmina Rahman, Bangladesh and South Asia Director, ARTICLE 19
• Joara Marchezini, Access to Information Officer, ARTICLE 19 - Brazil
• Agustina Del Campo, Director, Center for Studies on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information (CELE) at Universidad de Palermo
• Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director, Media Foundation For West Africa
We work around the world to promote freedom of expression, and are eager to answer any questions you have about challenges facing this vital human right. The different organizations will be logging in and out depending on time zones (earlier participation for those based in the Asia or the Middle East, later for those in North America and Latin America), but there will be people here to answer your questions throughout the day.
Please - Ask Us Anything!
Edited 2:30 EST: Ok, we get it. You don't like CNN. Seriously though, thanks so much for all these responses, and the robust debate that's taken place here today. Although none of us are journalists ourselves, we really relish these conversations, particularly challenging ones, about the state of the world's media and of freedom of expression, and it's really great to see so much engagement on critically important issues. We may not agree on everything, but hopefully we agree that freedom of expression needs to be safeguarded against all threats.
Things appear to be winding down a bit, so we're going to call time at 15:00 EST. Thanks again!
Edited 8:30 pm: Circled back through and saw that a couple of questions about Saudi Arabia and Iran have risen to the top, so I thought I'd address them. Saudi Arabia has an absolutely atrocious human rights record, including but not limited to free speech issues. One of the world's worst governments, and one which several of my colleagues on this AMA have been highly critical of in the past: https://www.article19.org/resources.php/resource/38207/en/saudi-arabia:-poet-ashraf-fayadh-given-death-sentence-for-apostasy http://www.ifj.org/nc/news-single-view/browse/5/backpid/59/category/gender-equality/article/ifj-condemns-brutal-and-inhumane-saudi-action-against-woman-journalist/
My own organization hasn't been very active on Saudi Arabia not because we have any affinity for that horrendous government, but rather because, as a small organization, we tend to focus our resources on countries where we see some potential of impacting positive change, which just isn't the case in Saudi. It's the same reason we haven't been that active on China or North Korea. We look for places we can make a difference, as opposed to those whose governments are completely indifferent to human rights criticism.
Regarding Iran - another atrocious government, and again one which my colleagues have been sharply critical of: https://www.article19.org/en/azad/, http://www.ifj.org/nc/news-single-view/backpid/1/article/iran-three-journalists-arrested-in-one-week/. Again, it's not an area we've been particularly active, because, as /u/hotsoccerchic points out, outside criticisms seem to only fuel the hardliners. In terms of what to do in a case like that - solidarity among the rest of the world is important, as well as consideration of a country's human rights record in establishing economic relations. Without necessarily coming out in support or opposition to the recent Iranian nuclear deal, I do think that the country's human rights record has, to a certain degree, fallen by the wayside with the focus on their nuclear programme. Hopefully, with the proliferation of the Internet and the increasing democratisation of tools of mass communication, Iran's youth will be empowered to finish the work of the Green Revolution in 2009 though, like Turkey and the Philippines, when a country is dead-set against respecting human rights, and has solid support of the army and security services, it's incredibly challenging to impact change.