Tag Archives: communication

Free Press = Free Society

Information is power. Few people can make a living, hold their governments accountable, and educate their children without a healthy supply of free- flowing information. Citizens need accurate, timely, independent news they can trust. So do businesses and markets. And so do governments. Media freedom keeps societies and economies vibrant, energetic, and healthy. When the free flow of news and information is cut off, individuals suffer. Societies suffer. Economies suffer.

But even as we observe World Press Freedom Day this year, threats against journalists are rising. As of last December, the Committee to Protect Journalists counted 179 reporters in jail around the world. And journalists continue to be threatened, attacked, disappeared, or murdered for trying to report the news.

In the past year, the world witnessed both the promise of, and the peril to, a free press. Throughout the Middle East and North Africa, journalists, bloggers, filmmakers and pundits chronicled the protests sweeping across the region, while some citizens armed with nothing but cell phones risked their lives to upload the truth – by text, tweet, and pixel. In doing so, they were exercising a fundamental freedom enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Yet too many governments attempt to censor the media, directly or indirectly. Too many investigative journalists are being silenced, many for exposing corruption – at local, state, or national government levels. Too many attacks and murders of journalists go unpunished.  In some cases, it is not just governments attacking, intimidating, and threatening journalists. It’s also criminals – drug cartels – terrorists or political factions. When journalists are threatened, attacked, jailed, or disappeared, other journalists self-censor. They stop reporting stories. They tone down stories. They omit details. Sources stop helping them. Their editors hesitate to print stories. Fear replaces truth. All of our societies suffer.

Like Estonia, the United States looks to all governments to take the steps necessary to create the same space we Americans and Estonians have enshrined in our societies for independent journalists to do their work without fear of violence or persecution. We pay special tribute to those courageous journalists, bloggers, and citizens who have sacrificed their lives, health, or freedom so that others could know the truth. And we honor the role of free and independent media in creating sustainable democracies and open, healthy societies.

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Filed under American Values, Civil Society, freedom of information

It’s Internet Freedom, Stupid!

Read a piece in the New York Times of June 12, 2011, entitled: U.S. Underwrites Internet Detour Around Censors.   Great story.  Great reading.  The ultimate point of the article is freedom of information, freedom of expression, freedom to participate in the 21st century communications revolution – the internet and all other forms of wireless communications technology.

President Obama and Secretary Clinton have made the vigorous defense of internet freedom a central element of U.S. foreign policy.  This policy has nothing to do with a fascination with modern communications technology (although it is cool!)  The policy is based on the simple realization that values first embraced by the young United States more than 200 years ago have found a new medium of electronic transmission.  It bridges distances, borders, cultural differences, political repression and violence, and virtually all other obstacles, to lend a voice to freedom, a voice to people in many parts of the world who have been silenced for too long.  “Let freedom ring!” has become “Let freedom byte!”  That is of course why repressive regimes everywhere do what they can to control or even shut down internet access to anyone who opposes them.  And that is why those of us who live in freedom must do the opposite by insisting on preserving unfettered internet access to all.  The June 12 NYT article notes that is exactly what a group of smart geeks is up to. 

So here is another great way for smart Americans and smart Estonians to work together in support of shared values!  Soon after arriving in Estonia more than a year and a half ago, I invited this country’s IT community to work on internet freedom hard and software.  Let me reissue this invitation.  Please read the NYT article Estonia and lend your considerable IT prowess to liberation technology.

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Filed under American Values, Civil Society, freedom of information, good governance, U.S. -Estonian Relations, U.S. Foreign Relations

Beyond Babel: English Belongs To The World

As a childhood immigrant to America who learned English as a “second language” and as an American Ambassador, I read with great interest a recent op-ed by Tallinn University Rector Rein Raud in Eesti Päevaleht.  Rector Raud argued for “some type of official status” for the English language in Estonia.  I think it already has such status.  Since my arrival in Estonia less than a year ago, I have been greatly impressed and deeply grateful for Estonians’ English language skills and their patience in using English with those of us who are guests in their country.  My sense is that my new Estonian friends like and use English not because they must, but because they want to.  That is how it should be.  Estonian is the beautiful and proud language of this country.  It has a unique place in the heart and soul of Estonia.  No other language can have a similar standing.  As fellow inhabitants of an ever smaller planet, we do each other the courtesy to learn at least a bit of each other’s languages as a sign of respect.  We have also been able to agree in increasing numbers to use English as a practical means of common global communication and as the default language for the globe.  English belongs to everyone. Inglise keel kuulub kõigile. Английский язык принадлежит каждому.

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Filed under American Values, Civil Society, education, U.S. -Estonian Relations