By: Editorial Staff
THE 47TH WORLD Newspaper Congress convened in Vienna just a few days shy of the 50th anniversary of D-Day, and the head of the International Federation of Newspaper Publishers (FIEJ) took the opportunity to remember not only those who gave their lives during World War II but the hundreds of thousands who “have joined the terrifying list of the victims of evil and folly in our times.”
They “are essentially victims of the kinds of things which FIEJ exists to combat: lies and propaganda and the censorship needed to promote them, which sets people against people and drives them to murder and other insanities; intolerance and ignorance, from which evil and violence feed,” said K. Prescott Low, president of FIEJ and chairman and publisher of the Patriot Ledger, Quincy, Mass.
Low paid tribute to those who have perished in the war in the former Yugoslavia, including the more than 70 journalists who have died covering the conflict ? “a heavy price indeed for the free flow of information, for the exposure of the atrocities of this war, for the safeguarding of some freedom of expression within this region.”
He said violence against members of the press and restrictions on freedom of expression escalated to record levels in 1993, commenting, “Human rights, freedom and democratic development appear to be in retreat, while violence, repression, civil strife, ethnic intolerance and religious fundamentalism are on the increase.”
More than 2,000 attacks against the press were recorded last year, including arrests, detention, raids on newspaper offices, physical assaults and assassinations ? a 23% increase over 1992.
At least 60 newspeople were killed because of their work or while reporting in conflict, and at least 30 other deaths are being investigated.
And the danger persists.
Low reported that so far this year, at least 24 journalists have been killed and there have been at least 500 attacks on the press. More than 120 newspeople remain imprisoned worldwide, 21 of them in China.
Less brutal but no less effective a means of restricting the freedom of the independent press throughout the world is the continuing monopoly control by government authorities of the means of distributing and often printing newspapers, Low reported.
The media in the established as well as the emerging democracies are under siege, as governments hit hard by recession look for new revenue sources, including taxes on newspaper sales.
“Such taxes can only further fragilize the press, already hit by an economic crisis and a global fall-off in readership in recent years,” Low said.
He added that several governments, especially in Europe, “clearly are tempted to try to legislate against the press for what they consider to be abuses of their freedom.”
But a major victory came last year ? in part because of FIEJ’s active campaign ? when the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers rejected the Assembly’s call for a declaration on journalism ethics.
Low announced at the World Newspaper Congress that FIEJ has established the Press Freedom Development Fund to aid beleaguered media organizations and journalists worldwide.
“At FIEJ, we do not only investigate, expose and talk about [press] violations ? though that is itself important,” he said. “We also endeavor in very concrete and practical ways to further the boundaries of press freedom, freedom of expression and, of course, democracy itself.”