The month of May comes with two important global appointments to celebrate and to advocate: Labour Day and Press Freedom Day respectively. Every year May 3, is meant to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom to evaluate global press freedom, defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession. The global theme for 2013 is “Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media” which focuses on safety of journalists. May 3rd was proclaimed World Press Freedom Day by the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a recommendation adopted at the 26th session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991. Although World Press Freedom Day has only been celebrated since 1993, it has much deeper roots in the United Nations Article 19 of 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights. It states that everyone “has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.
The annual anniversary provides an occasion to inform citizens about violations of press freedom - a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered. As Leadership reported some months ago, 2012 was one of the deadliest on record for journalists, with 141 killed in 29 different countries. Syria being the most dangerous place on earth for reporters, for the third year running, Finland has distinguished itself as the country that most respects media freedom. Followed by the Netherlands and Norway. On the contrary, the worst countries for press freedom for the last three year are Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea. While democratic countries occupy the top of the index, dictatorial countries occupy the last three positions. Sadly the young African nation Eritrea features as one of the worst! According to Human rights watch, Eritrea has currently at least 30 journalists detained and many others exiled. Many African nations who claim to be democratic often harass journalist directly or indirectly. Press freedom must be upheld and citizens should never be prohibited from saying what they need to express. Hence, Press Freedom Day is not only for journalist and editors, but to inform citizens about their God given right to express their opinions freely. As the theme of this year lobbies they should feel “Safe To Speak” As international LABOUR DAY, pops in every year on May 1; and with the theme “Unity and Solidarity” this year, there is desire to create a collective consciousness about the rights and dignity of workers worldwide. Hopefully, this universal call will have impact given the fact that the theme for the Labour Day “unity and solidarity” is addressed across the universe. Three constant calls have been made - trade union rights, human rights, and international solidarity.
The gap between the rich and the poor is continuously drifting apart leaving a huge portion of humanity in abject poverty. Unscrupulous minority who claim “ownership” exploits the sweat of the majority. Whether they are politicians or private businessmen they have the obligation of recompensing their dependants justly. It contradicts the original plan of the Creator who intended the earth and all it bears to be shared equally. It does not make sense when individuals own billions and the majority grassroots don’t have their minimum daily bread! The Biblical truth is that all humanity is entitled to benefit from the earth, its wealth and fruits. The drama is who decides what belongs to whom? Secondly what is enough for each one to live on? Annually the Labour Day rightly challenges the world system of relationship between Employer and Employee. It also questions some of the marks and methods of acquiring amassing riches that conspicuously creates the great rfts between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. The socialist and communist ideologies created the principles of equity and solidarity. But on the practical level they were a total failure. Animal farm of George Orwell in 1945 exposed their hidden agenda and weakness. The communist leaders replaced the capitalists and aristocrats whom they toppled with military power in the name “justice” and empowerment of the “working class”.
They became the new capitalists, dictators and oppressors of their people. With the ideology of “State Ownership” the population remained the same as before, if not worse. It may be utopia but the world has still to invent a system of governance and economic order whereby there is mutual respect of employees and employers. The young generation may need to consider developing a concept about this reality where balance between government and economic system is observed in a nation. The principle of the common good for which the Church advocates insistently ought to be the guiding principle for socio-economic order. Each human being should be conscious that his/her labour benefits him/herself and the whole human family. Unless this type of mentality and modus operandi creeps in, we shall always be victims of political oppression and economic imbalance.
The ‘fourth arm of the government’: the press has to play key role of advocacy. If the press- men and women will continue to be muzzled, the dream of balanced economy is null and void since the media provides the platform for checks and balances. Leaders of the state cannot do it all like in a given family when parents think they know it all and exclude children’s role, they risk driving the family to doom! Thumbs up for press freedom while enjoying the fruits of our toil and labour!