Newsletter No 27 25 April 2006
 
Press Freedom:
It is Vital to Draw Attention to the State of Press Freedom

“I believe it is vital to draw the attention of world public opinion to the state of press freedom and of journalists in Arab countries in general. With a few rare exceptions, press freedom there remains a hollow slogan and media professionals are sycophants to regimes hostile to reform in a fast-changing world.”

So says Algerian journalist, author and poet Hamid Skiff. He has been a victim of harassment for his writings and outspoken defense of freedom of expression in his home country. He has lived in Germany from the 1990’s.

In an article for World Press Freedom Day, 3 May, Skiff writes about what happens when the international community turns its back on journalists who are suffering extreme repression - highlighting the case of Abdullah Ali al-Sanussi Al-Darrat.

The article is part of a package of essays, opinion pieces, infographics, editorial cartoons, public service advertisements and other materials being offered by the World Association of Newspapers for publication on or near 3 May, World Press Freedom Day.

Newspapers are encouraged to view and download the material from http://www.worldpressfreedomday.org , and use as much of it as space allows.

Al-Darrat was jailed in Libya in 1973. There has been no word on his condition, where he is being held or whether he is still alive. No other journalist has been imprisoned longer.

In fact, more than 500 journalists were arrested last year. The theme of the WAN World Press Freedom Day package is, "Don't Lock Up Information: Stop Jailing Journalists," and it contains the personal stories of endurance, pain and determination of the men and women arrested and imprisoned.

Contributors include;

- Pius Njawé, one of Africa's leading journalists and press freedom heroes, recounts what it is like to be a target, merely for doing his job, in an article that is being offered for publication, free of charge, to newspapers world-wide. The article is part of a package of essays, opinion pieces, infographics, editorial cartoons, public service advertisements and other materials being offered by the World Association of Newspapers for publication on or near 3 May, World Press Freedom Day.

- Raul Rivero, who writes about his own ‘hell’ of spending two years behind bars in Cuba, describing the cases of his colleagues who remain in prison, and the current state of journalism in Cuba.

- Massoumeh Shafii, wife of jailed Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji, who talks about the impact of imprisonment on the families of jailed journalists. Akbar Ganji, the 2006 laureate of the WAN Golden Pen of Freedom, was recently freed from six years in prison.

- Burmese journalist San San Nwe, who writes a personal essay about her jailed colleague, U Win Tin, and the impact that attention from the international community had on their cases. San San Nwe, who was released from prison after seven years, and U Win Tin, who has been incarcerated 17 years, are co-laureates of the 2001 WAN Golden Pen of Freedom.

In addition, the package includes:

- Online protest letters and a list of the more than 500 journalists who were arrested last year.

- A video created by the Swedish Beckmans School of Design, focusing on jailed journalists. The video is being offered to broadcasters and newspapers, which are encouraged to use it on their web sites. It is available in five different languages, among them Arabic and Chinesse.

- Infographics on the number of journalists killed and jailed, and editorial cartoons on press freedom themes.

- Public service advertisements, produced by leading agencies through collaboration with Act Responsible, a non-profit initiative organized by AdForum.com, to help raise awareness about the importance of press freedom to society.

WAN is encouraging newspapers and web sites to publish the materials on 3 May -- go to http://www.worldpressfreedomday.org .