This is a must-see for all of us writing to inform or educate. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has just released the 2011 Impunity Index (Getting Away With Murder) and it’s both a disturbing and enlightening read. Evidently they publish this every year (this is the first year I’ve seen it) and it highlights the countries in the world that are most dangerous for journalists based on how many of their murders remain unsolved. There’s a world map at the top which you can scroll over to see where the cited nations rank.
We all know that speaking up when others want you to keep your mouth shut is frightening and hard. You can easily become the target for a whole lot of anger (trust me on this one if you don’t already know yourself) but imagine living in a part of the world where you could actually be gunned down in a parking lot in front of your child for telling the truth, and where the person who murdered you wouldn’t even be prosecuted much less punished. I was really surprised to learn that Brazil (#12) and India (#13), two of the BRIC countries and rising economic powerhouses wielding a growing amount of political clout, were on the list. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Russia (#9) is improving, and not surprised to see that Mexico’s (#8) situation is deteriorating.
Actually, everyone should care a lot about this, not just writers and journalists. Why?
CPJ research shows that deadly, unpunished violence against journalists often leads to vast self-censorship in the rest of the press corps. From Somalia to Mexico, CPJ has found that journalists avoid sensitive topics, leave the profession, or flee their homeland to escape violent retribution.
Censorship and corruption go hand in hand. You never have one without the other. Ever. He who controls the flow of information, controls everything. Which is precisely why journalists who report on their activities are now the number one target of drug cartels in Mexico. And the result is predictable. The remaining journalists have drastically curtailed their coverage…self-censoring in order to survive…and the cartels have been subsequently strengthened by the expanding cloak of silence. As things gets worse down there, we’re hearing less and less of the details and it’s already starting to spill over the borders into this country.
Freedom of speech is not just about being able to express ourselves on blogs and Twitter and Facebook, although those things are important, too. At it’s core it’s about protecting our communities and nations, our fundamental freedoms and human rights, from those who would corrupt them. Media bashing has been something of a blood sport for the last few years, but that’s probably an attitude we should rethink. Corruption is popping up everywhere in the world right now, including right here at home, and we need all our journalists and the agencies that support them if we intend to keep our freedoms.
Things to do? Thank a journalist. Support CPJ. But probably the most important thing of all? Practice speaking up ourselves when it’s hard….challenge a bully or respectfully offer a different point of view in a heated conversation…and then try to listen when others do the same. The most important truth in the world is utterly useless if we all close our ears and refuse to listen.
copyright Dia Osborn 2011