On World Press Freedom Day, we salute the world’s journalists and honor all who serve the cause of press freedom—particularly those who do so at great risk.
The right to free expression is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, reinforced by a range of international treaties, and written into numerous national constitutions. In July 2011, a Syrian non-governmental organization earned consultative status in the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations for its work on the issue, underscoring the regard held by the international community for all who labor to protect this fundamental human right.
Today, the organization’s founder is languishing behind bars. Mazen Darwish’s arrest on February 16 without charge or trial—and continuing detention by the Syrian government in solitary confinement—should inflame the conscience of all decent people. It should also be far less common. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 179 journalists were jailed worldwide as of last December. Already in 2012, 17 have been killed simply for being journalists, six of them in Syria—including the veteran American reporter, Marie Colvin.
Earlier this year, President Obama said, “When universal human rights are denied, when the independence of judiciaries or legislatures or the press is threatened, we will speak out.” Today, we raise our voices for all who risk their lives for the idea that no one should be silenced.