In celebration of press defenders
By Johann Fritz Posted Jul 1 2000
Since the first meeting of the founders of the International Press Institute in 1950, this organization has been committed clearly to one goal: safeguarding freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
Within five decades IPI has become an authoritative international network of journalists from newspapers, magazines, broadcasting organizations and news agencies in more than 100 countries.
During the same period, many brave and heroic journalists have courageously fought against the suppression of basic rights in their respective countries. IPI has monitored these cases, offered support and organized global awareness of such press freedom violations. The IPI board, therefore, decided to celebrate IPI’s 50th anniversary by granting 50 awards for outstanding achievements in the struggle for press freedom.
However, the jury had to face the fact that the world is still divided into three regions. About one-third of all countries have censorship and totalitarian regimes. Another third is in a state of transition with substantial restraints on the free flow of information. The democratic societies are confronted with new problems of sophisticated legal perspectives, commercialization and a deterioration of journalistic standards.
So, what is a realistic appraisal of achievements, and how is the criteria for the nomination of heroes defined under such different circumstances?
The selection committee decided candidates should have made a significant contribution to the defense and promotion of press freedom during the last 50 years, especially if this involved acts of resistance or bravery under harsh conditions such as physical attacks, threats, harassment, censorship, imprisonment, kidnapping or exile, or administrative, legal and economic pressure. The 50 World Press Freedom Heroes generally fell into three broad categories: press freedom fighters, press freedom martyrs or press freedom defenders, promoters and protectors.
This commemorative issue of IPI Report is dedicated to all journalists who have worked collectively during the past half-century to secure and protect everyone’s right to freedom of expression, including freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas.