On November 21, I had the distinct privilege of welcoming journalists Janet Hinostroza of Ecuador and Nedim Sener of Turkey to the State Department. Both reporters are recipients of the 2013 International Press Freedom Awards, honored by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) for their personal courage and conviction in reporting the news.
I was joined in the meeting by Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs; Mark Toner, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs; and Tomicah Tillemann, Senior Advisor for Civil Society and Emerging Democracies.
Throughout the conversation, we learned firsthand about the difficulty of reporting under threat. We reiterated the United States’ unreserved support for freedom of expression, including for members of the press.
In too many countries, journalists who try to exercise their fundamental freedom of expression face intimidation, repression and harassment in the form of censorship, imprisonment, violence, and even death.
Governments that stifle a free press do both a grave injustice to their own people and a tremendous disservice to humankind. Without media freedom, aspirations are imperiled, innovations are stagnated, and economies are impoverished. Countries are stronger when journalists challenge convention and pursue the truth. As Secretary Kerry recently said, “A free and open press is a vital foundation of peace and prosperity.”
This year’s CPJ awardees embody a special brand of courage and a commitment to speaking truth to power. We owe a debt to all four of them — Janet Hinostroza of Ecuador, Nedim Sener of Turkey, Bassem Youssef of Egypt, and Nguyen Van Hai (a/k/a Dieu Cay) of Vietnam, who is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence for charges stemming from his blog postings. And we stand in solidarity with their colleagues around the world who give meaning and purpose to that indispensable and universal human right – freedom of expression.
About the Author: Uzra Zeya serves as Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.