FOR THE WEEK OF APR 28, 2008
World Press Freedom Day spotlights an essential right
Find an article, editorial or opinion page cartoon that would be risky or impossible to run where the government doesn’t tolerate free expression.
Look at coverage of the presidential campaign or any other political topic and discuss how it shows the value of press freedom.
Reports on courts and law enforcement are important parts of an independent press. Search for an example of police or legal news that reflects the public's right of free access to information -- even if it embarrasses officials.
We expect water to flow from taps, electricity to be available from wall sockets and press freedom to be reflected in publications. But each of those is a luxury in some parts of the world, so the United Nations sponsors an annual reminder that uncensored newspapers and magazines are as precious as water, power and other essential resources. This coming Saturday, May 3, is designated as World Press Freedom Day.
The observance, proclaimed in 1993 by the UN General Assembly, is intended to raise awareness of press freedom and remind governments that free expression is part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This week's observance gains particular immediacy because of pressure on China to uphold Olympic year pledges to respect the role of domestic and foreign journalists.
Even in the United States, press protection is an issue before Congress. A federal "shield law" to help journalists protect the identities of confidential sources awaits Senate action after 398-21 passage in the House. All three current presidential candidates - John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama -- support the proposal, called the Free Flow of Information Act. It's strongly opposed by the Bush administration, which fears it would cover anyone claiming to be a reporter and which also worries that prosecutors would have to reveal classified information in open court to compel disclosure of a journalist's sources.
Global group says: "Chinese journalists continue to face censorship and repression. It is high time for China to respect its commitments pertaining to freedom of expression and freedom of the press and to guarantee the right of all people to access information. This is the clear message we need to impress on the Chinese authorities . . . on World Press Freedom Day." -- Timothy Balding, World Association of Newspapers chief executive
U.S. official says: "The proposed bill erects significant burdens to obtaining critical information from anyone who can claim to be a journalist, including bloggers and communication service providers, such as Internet service providers. These roadblocks delay the collection of critical information and ensure that criminals have opportunities to avoid detection." - Michael Chertoff, secretary of Homeland Security
Media columnist says: "The 'balancing act' that a shield law would allegedly provide is already in place, and it's working -- it's called the federal guidelines." - Jack Shafer, Slate magazine
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