#22 International Journalism Festival 2009

Voices for the voiceless

The mythic figure of war journalists faces sometimes a stark reality: tell the truth and you will be killed. Let’s listen to stories from the Thursday’s panel named “Condemned to exile or death: the courage to tell the truth”. Linked to this is also the fundamental issue of the threat to press freedom worldwide.

Marcello Foa, special correspondent for the Italian daily Il Giornale
“In Italy, there are more and more journalists threaten. Everybody knows about the famous case of Roberto Saviano, writer of the book “La Camorra”, who is sentenced to death by the Sicilian Mafia. But the situation in Italy is still better than in other countries, like China.

Hollman Morris, director of the TV Colombian show Contravia, an investigative journalist who has received death threats through an anonymous letter
“In Colombia, I work under pressure. It’s difficult. I always have 3 bodyguards with me. You can imagine that I couldn’t do the same job without having them around. In Colombia, 6 000 people live surrounded by bodyguards either because they defend human rights either because they denounced drug dealers.

Even though I am always under threat, my job is a huge satisfaction for me and my family. I’m giving voice to the victims, to the peasants, to the Afro-Colombians, to those who are usually voiceless in the media. It makes me very proud to meet students in the streets and have them tell me that they believe in my work.“

Jean-François Julliard, secretary general of Reporters sans Frontières
“Our aim is to defend press freedom. Of course, the situation is better now than 30 or 40 years ago; there are less dictators, for example. There are a lot more independent medias, but violations of press freedom still exists. We estimate that a third of the world population doesn’t have access to free information.

Every year we publish an index: The World Press Freedom Ranking. The countries occupying the bottom places are well-known: Cuba or South Korea. But there are also countries where journalists can’t do their jobs, like Eritrea. Today, 130 journalists are in jail because of their job. In 2007, 86 journalists were killed in doing their job. In 2008, we have studied more than 100 cases of journalists threaten in their countries who have decided to leave it. A very hard choice.
So the situation is far away from being good. Nowadays the mains enemies of journalists are not the states, but private people, drug dealers or extremist groups.”

Sergio Cecchini, director of communication of Medecins sans Frontières in Italy
“I’m convinced we need journalists to report about the humanitarian crises we work in. They use our logistics to go on the field. Journalists can change a situation by telling what happened and this occurs even more when the humanitarian crisis is forgotten.
But we are frustrated here in Italy. The most important medias cover less and less the humanitarian crises. And when they do it, they always cover the same ones: Middle East, Afghanistan or Iraq.”

Posted in | 03.04.2009

By: Céline Diais

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