Happy WPFD #pressfreedomday!

Don't blame Twitter for the views of its users, declares Louise Mensch today. In a string of news reports, the Tory MP has defended the social media platform having received a flood of obscene and sexist comments on her Twitter page.  Whatever your view of this politician, I think most of us would agree that Twitter – or any social media platform – should not be censured for the views expressed by those who use it.

It's interesting that this story hit the news headlines on World Press Freedom Day.   In fact, South African journalist Ferial Haffajee lauds the strength and impact that Twitter can have. Speaking to journalism.co.uk, Ferial describes herself as a "keen Tweeter” who “campaigns for media freedom 140 characters at a time”.  

We at Amnesty are keenly aware of how impactful Twitter can be.

Former Media Awards winner of the Special Award for Journalism under Threat Azerbaijani newspaper editor Eynulla Fatullayev was released from prison shortly after Amnesty launched a high profile Twitter campaign to demand his release last year. Some of the cream of the crop in British media industry, including Jon Snow and Ian Hislop tweeted the Azerbaijani authorities from Amnesty’s Media Awards ceremony to demand Fatullayev’s release.   Days later, Eynulla was pardoned and released from prison. Today – now a free man Eynulla has collected the UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Prize to his collection of awards for his persistence in seeking to expose abuses and corruption in Azerbaijan.

Twitter – like many other media platforms – can be used for the great and good, and also for the damaging and dangerous. 

In essence it’s a benign platform – it’s not Twitter, it’s the tweets. But whilst output in the UK might divide opinion, on World Press Freedom Day, it’s sobering to think of the challenges faced by journalists in dozens of other countries. 

Globally, thousands of journalists are harassed, criticised, arrested, fined, imprisoned and at times killed for the work they carry out. Most often the men and women who face the greatest threats are those who dare to criticise the government, local authorities or big businesses for corruption and human rights abuses. 

Yesterday a reporter from Somalia’s Radio Daljir reporter was killed by two gunmen, making Farhan Jemiis Abdulle the sixth Somalian journalist killed in six months. Meanwhile another former winner of Amnesty’s Special Award for Journalism under Threat, Dina Meza from Honduras is currently facing a series of vile threats.

Read Dina's captivating blog about what life is like for her as a journalist in Honduras and you can take action on her behalf here.

Meanwhile, Amnesty’s been celebrating World Press Freedom in a big way. We’ve published a few briefings, including a global round-up of press persecution, and a short briefing on the situation in Sudan. The report Silencing Dissent highlights how dozens of journalists have been arrested, newspaper houses have closed down and newspapers have been confiscated after they’ve been printed because of the editorial content.

We’ve also released a new song to mark this year’s World Press Freedom Day. Click here to sing along (or sway) to a Toast for Freedom!

BBC’s Lyse Doucet (herself a brave journalist) has maybe said it all:

On World Press Freedom Day, a salute to brave colleagues worldwide, in difficult dangerous conditions, telling stories that matter #WPF

— lyse doucet (@bbclysedoucet) May 3, 2012

I too salute the journalists, media commentators, photographers and cameramen who risk their lives on a daily basis to expose stories which authorities wish to bury. 

It’s worth celebrating the fact that we in the UK are free to write, read and listen to whatever we want – without fear of having our rights denied, provided it doesn’t breach the basic rights of any other.  This is by far and away one of the greatest basic rights which ought to be afforded to all.

Happy World Press Freedom Day all!

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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