Today I learnt, via the magic of Twitter and journalist John J Cook, that the US will host the UNESCO’s 2011 World Press Freedom Day celebration 2011 in Washington D.C.
What is World Press Freedom Day you might ask. Well, it provides:
“an opportunity to defend journalists and media organisations from attacks on their independence; to evaluate the state of press freedom around the world; and to pay tribute to those brave journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.
World Press Freedom Day also serves as an occasion to alert citizens to violations of press freedom. It provides a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are being censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalists, editors and publishers are being harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered.
The occasion also reminds governments of the need to respect press freedom, and is a day of solemn reflection for media professionals on issues of press freedom and professional ethics. Just as importantly, World Press Freedom Day is a day of support for those media organisations which are the targets of systematic abuse, suppression or discrimination when carrying out their democratic role.”
Given these lofty ideals, the irony of the US hosting it is apparent on so many levels, but to mention just a few:
a) A certain amount of those journalists killed in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, which will no doubt suffer in the rankings for various blindingly obvious reasons, were actually killed by the US military in the course of their military occupation
b) The US (like most other western countries) media is controlled by just a handful of major corporations, which in turn are commanded by a small group of very wealthy individuals
c) Only in the last few months the US government, operating out of Washington D.C., have enacted a campaign of slander, threat and persecution against a foreign organisation which provides a medium for whistleblowers to leak information that is in the public interest, to, the public, i.e. Wikileaks
d) At the very same time, the US military have arrested and held indefinitely one of these alleged whistleblowers, Bradley Manning
e) The US government has recently prohibited government employees from reading the press