As freedom is on the decline across the world, journalists are also in grave danger. The Committee to Protect Journalists’ 2009 Attacks on the Press Report, released today, saw the death toll for journalists reach a record high.
The November 23 murder of 31 journalists in the Philippines helped drive up that number of deaths. The so-called Maguindanao Massacre was a gruesome example of the deadly impunity that arises in a country where the press is not adequately protected. (This photo gallery of the incident is not even the most graphic of those available online.) Furthermore, across the world, freelancers and bloggers were hit hard, lacking big-media support. Iran and China jailed the most journalists.
All this comes as little surprise, especially in light of the 2010 Freedom House report, released in January, which announced the longest uninterrupted decline in political rights and civil liberties ever seen in the report’s near 40-year existence.
But as freedom wanes, the role of these journalists is more important than ever.
Last year, the White House issued a decent statement on May 1, World Press Freedom Day. But landmark incidents like the Maguindanao Massacre did not elicit any comment at all to be found on the White House website.
But as the Committee to Protect Journalists points out, a “name and shame” strategy has worked in the past. “The guiding premise is that even the most brutal leaders in the world want to hide — or at least justify — their repressive actions,” writes executive director Joel Simon.
The year 2010 has already seen major threats to freedom across the world. The safety of journalists is one human-rights issue that Obama can support while also winning high public approval. Now it’s his turn to speak out.