October 7 marks the fifth-year anniversary of the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Her reporting on the war in the North Caucasus brought to light the violation of human rights and the suffering of the victims in this conflict. We honor Anna’s legacy as a courageous journalist.
While we welcome the recent arrest of suspects in her murder, justice will not be done until all those involved in the crime are identified and prosecuted.
(As prepared for delivery at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, Session 1)
Freedom of expression, including freedom of the press, and the ability of citizens to access and share a wide range of information are hallmarks of democratic governance and essential to national success in the Information Age. Across the OSCE, individual citizens as well as civil society organizations and journalists seek to inform and shape public debate, influence government decision-making, expose abuses of power, connect with one another and join in the great global flow of news, ideas and opinion. The OSCE, and its impressive Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, have played, and must continue to play, a pioneering role within this region and beyond it, in the defense and advancement of fundamental freedoms via traditional and online media.
Today, in a number of participating States, media – particularly independent media — are under pressure to be silent or self-censor. For practicing their profession, journalists are victims of brutal, sometimes deadly, attacks, often carried out with impunity. The Committee to Protect Journalists has noted that 546 journalists have been killed around the world with complete impunity since 1992. Three countries from the OSCE region — Russia, Tajikistan, and Turkey – are on the list of the top 20 countries that CPJ has recorded with unsolved, or in some instances entirely unaddressed, cases of murdered journalists. Many publics in the OSCE region are denied the opportunity to access a range of sources of information.
OSCE states also are part of a growing global trend by governments to restrict Internet freedom, and, by so doing, restrict the exercise via new media not only of the fundamental freedom of expression, but also the fundamental freedoms of assembly and association. These enduring freedoms apply just as much to a communication sent by Twitter or a gathering organized by Facebook as they do to a conversation on the telephone or in coffee shops, or a demonstration in a public square.
As Secretary Clinton has emphasized: “The rights of individuals to express their views freely, petition their leaders, worship according to their beliefs – these rights are universal, whether they are exercised in a public square or on an individual blog. The freedoms to assemble and associate also apply in cyberspace. In our time, people are as likely to come together to pursue common interests online as in a church or a labor hall.”
Almost every aspect of today’s society is being transformed by the rapidly growing number of Internet users, the ubiquitous nature of mobile devices, and the expansion of tools such as blogs, social networking sites, and online media. With two billion people now online, the Internet has become the public space of the 21st century.
It is no coincidence that authorities who try to restrict the exercise of fundamental freedoms by their people, impede the work of human rights defenders and civil society organizations, control the press and obstruct the flow of information, tend to be the same authorities who try to restrict, impede, control and obstruct their citizens’ peaceful use of the new digital technologies.
While the latest connective technologies are the most topical media, we must not lose sight of the fact that newspapers, TV, and radio remain critical outlets for information and opinion for much of the world’s population, including in the OSCE region. These media outlets are no less important and no less deserving of the full adherence to OSCE commitments.
Let me now raise specific concerns about freedom of expression and media freedom in a number of OSCE participating States.
In Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the state retains a tight grip on all media. We urge the Government of Turkmenistan to allow the importation of foreign print media and to relax existing restrictions on foreign and domestic journalists. Last month, Uzbekistan authorities blocked dozens of Internet sites, including those of the New York Times and many Russia-based news websites. At the beginning of September, Uzbekistan unveiled a new government-sponsored social media site—Mulokot—that reportedly is available only to persons with a registered Uzbek cell phone number. There already are indications that the site is monitored and censored.
Although print media are freer in Kazakhstan, authorities have used excessive fines to close small independent newspapers critical of the regime. Ramazan Yesergepov, editor of the weekly Alma-Ata Info, is still in prison for allegedly revealing state secrets while reporting on a corruption investigation. Authorities have blocked a number of popular blogs and media sites under a 2009 law that classifies all Internet content as media, most recently the popular blog platform LiveJournal, on the grounds that extremists had posted blogs on it. Kazakhstan also recently decided that all .kz domain names will have to operate on physical servers within its borders, a move that could build a virtual wall around the Kazakhstani internet that authorities could use to further control content.
We welcome recent amendments to the Criminal Code in Kyrgyzstan which decriminalized libel and urge other participating States with such laws to consider doing the same. Along with the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, we strongly urge that the remaining speech crimes of ‘insult’ and ‘insult of an official’ will also be repealed. More than a year after the violence of June 2010 in Kyrgyzstan, we remain concernedby the closure of Uzbek-language media, particularly in the run-up to elections next month. The August attack by unknown assailants against journalist Shokhrukh Saipov—whose brother Aliher was murdered for his journalism work in 2007—is another example where swift action by the Kyrgyz authorities to investigate and prosecute the crime can help reverse its chilling effect on media freedom.
Armenia also decriminalized libel in 2010, but since then the civil code has been misused to stifle the media through the imposition of heavy fines. Moreover, A1+ TV is still off the airwaves, despite a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. We hope government will take steps to improve media freedom, especially in light of the upcoming parliamentary elections next year.
In Tajikistan, the government controls most printing presses, newsprint supplies, and broadcasting facilities. The government used this power in 2010 to stop the publication of several newspapers and block access to independent internet websites. Government officials have used lawsuits to intimidate critics. Last June, Urunboy Usmonov, a local correspondent for the BBC who met with members of a banned Islamic group in order to write a story, was arrested on suspicion of belonging to that group. Though he has since been released on bail, he still faces criminal prosecution. Journalist Mahmadyusuf Ismoilov has been held in pre-trial detention since November 2010, charged with inciting religious and national hatred, slander and other crimes after he reported on local corruption.
Although we welcome Azerbaijan’s release of journalist Eynulla Fatullayev and activists Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade, journalists and activists in that country continue to risk fines, beatings and imprisonment for exercising their freedom of speech.
In Georgia, many media criticize the government, but the two primary TV stations with countrywide reach remain heavily influenced by the government. There are also ongoing concerns about transparency of ownership of media outlets despite a law passed in 2010 limiting off shore ownership to 10 percent. We look forward to the January 2012 implementation of legislation designed to address these concerns. There are also reports of direct and indirect pressure on journalists, including the beating by security forces of journalists covering the events of the night of June 25-26, and the government’s tax inspection of Media Palitra shortly after it showed coverage of the events of June 25-26 in a manner unfavorable to the government.
Belarus has a poor record on freedom of expression—including for members of the media. The state maintains a monopoly on information about political, social, and economic affairs. Journalists risk fines and/or imprisonment for publishing views contrary to the official government line. This record further deteriorated with last December’s post-election crackdown; students, members of human rights organizations, bloggers, and political party activists were harassed, beaten, and imprisoned for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of assembly and expression. The further crackdown on independent media included beatings, detentions, convictions, searches, equipment confiscations and other forms of harassment, as well as threats of administrative closures of newspapers. Belarus has periodically blocked social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook and shut down opposition Internet sites. Customers at Internet cafes must present identity documents, and the cafes are responsible for maintaining lists of users and the websites they visit. Authorities routinely monitor emails and Internet traffic. Responding to the “silent protests” that took place in June and July, the government reportedly created “mirror” websites to divert users from accessing independent news sources and blocked access to the popular Vkontakte website before and during protest actions.
In Russia, journalists have risked—and lost—their lives to do their jobs. Paul Klebnikov, Anna Politkovskaya, and Natalya Estemirova and are only three of those who have paid the ultimate price for reporting the news. Journalists covering the ongoing violence in the North Caucasus and official corruption face especially dangerous conditions. Many journalists exercise self-censorship to avoid government pressure.
We welcome the Russian President Medvedev’s statement at the World Economic Forum in January that “Any attempts to limit the Internet or stifle innovation will lead the world to stagnation. Russian will not support initiatives that put Internet freedom in question.” The spread of the Internet undoubtedly has had a positive effect on Russian civil society, providing new opportunities for grassroots organizations to connect with citizens and new platforms to voice alternative viewpoints and hold government accountable. However, problems associated with press freedom for print media have begun to migrate to online media as well. Even when technical blocks or filtering are not deployed systematically, if people are punished physically or through legal action for peacefully expressing themselves online, Internet freedom is constrained. The threats to Internet freedom in Russia range from attacks on bloggers to criminal prosecutions for “extremism”, to the blocking of specific sites by local service providers, denial of service attacks on sites of opposition groups or independent media, and attempts by security services and some regional authorities to regulate Internet content.
In Ukraine, while many outlets for alternative, independent views still exist, the media in general have become less competitive as dominance by the state and oligarchs friendly to the authorities—both national and local—has grown. A number of journalists focusing on corruption at the local level have been threatened or attacked. Impunity for attacks on journalists and the media undermines democracy and the rule of law. It is troubling that authorities have not yet shed light on the disappearance of investigative reporter Vasyl Klymentyev in Kharkiv more than one year ago. And the closed door trial concerning the killing in 2000 of journalist Georgiy Gongadze challenges the right of the public to be informed. It is vital in a democracy that independent media can freely report on matters of public concern.
The United States shares the concern of the Representative on Freedom of the Media and others regarding media freedom in Macedonia. Most recently, the mandates of all members of the management board of the public broadcaster MRT were terminated, a move which could compromise the independence of the broadcaster. When combined with the closure earlier this year of A1 TV and three newspapers accused of tax evasion, we see an overall downward trend, leaving Macedonian citizens with fewer media choices.
In Turkey, scores of Turkish journalists are behind bars, and thousands more are under investigation. A recent survey of journalists indicated that 85.1% of those polled said censorship and self-censorship are definitely common in the Turkish media, while 14.9% said censorship and self-censorship are fairly common. We are increasingly concerned by the restrictions that the Government of Turkey places on Internet freedom. According to the excellent report issued by the Representative of Freedom of the Media, Turkey has the broadest legal measures in the OSCE region for blocking access to websites by specifying 11 content-related crimes, and is considering even further filtering of content. We welcome Ankara’s decision to delay the introduction of new Internet measures, including a nationwide filtering package which members of civil society and industry opposed as a further restriction of Internet freedom. We urge the authorities to respond to their concerns and ensure that any new Internet policies respect a free and open Internet in Turkey.
Digital networks are essential to everyday life in the 21st Century. They empower those working for human dignity and they are an engine of national and global prosperity. At the same time, the Internet’s force and reach make it a target for intrusive governmental regulation. The United States is determined to lead by example and demonstrate by our own actions that increased security and enhanced user privacy go hand-in-hand with keeping the Internet open and free.
All participating States, the United States included, have a responsibility to uphold the solemn OSCE commitments we have made in the crucial areas of freedom of expression and media freedom. We have a responsibility to investigate and prosecute violence against journalists. And we have a responsibility to ensure a political climate that is conducive to the functioning of independent, pluralistic media via traditional and new technologies. We must meet these responsibilities with no excuses and no delay.
DRL’s program in Algeria addresses the issue of in-country “disappearances.” The program implementer supports efforts of civil society organizations in studying, advocating, and reporting on credible alternatives for an inclusive, democratic and legitimate national reconciliation process.
Elections and Political Process Development Programs:
Two DRL elections and political process strengthening programs provide training to any interested Egyptian groups and coalitions including political parties in campaign management, media relations, and platform development. The projects also train women and youth how to engage effectively in the political process by learning about issue advocacy and how to vote. The programs also provide technical assistance to Egyptian poll observers and civil society groups to strengthen the integrity of the electoral process and make sure all rules and regulations are followed. Participants in these programs are self-selected, and DRL does not fund direct support to political parties.
One DRL labor program helps to build the capacity of independent worker organizations. This project will also work to advocate for workers’ rights and promote freedom of expression and access to information about independent labor and trade unions. Another DRL labor program supports efforts to enhance freedom of association and improve collective bargaining at the local level. The project will assist in developing a campaign on worker’s rights as well as trainings on effective collective bargaining techniques, dispute resolution, and the enforcement of national legislation.
Independent Journalism and Media Program:
A DRL program works with interested local media outlets and reporters to provide multimedia journalism training, including electronic media. The program features specialized training for female and youth citizen journalists on election day coverage and integrating contributions of other citizen journalists into election reporting.
DRL supports programs in Iran that focus on democracy, human rights, and rule of law.
DRL has a robust Iraq program and is one of the lead bureaus in the promotion of democracy and human rights in-country.
DRL programs focus on democracy and governance, human rights, and women’s issues.
One DRL democracy and governance program seeks to train Iraqi activists who will eventually be able to serve as full-time in-house trainers for political parties and civil society organizations at the regional and local levels. In addition, the program works with the legislative and executive branches to improve governance capacity.
Another DRL program focuses on human rights issues. The program implementer provides specialized research and training intended to expand and deepen the general population’s understanding of the historical context, scope, legal underpinnings, and practical functions of the Human Rights Commission. In addition, the program provides community outreach and assists the National Human Rights Commission to establish popular legitimacy as well as constitutional legitimacy.
A successful DRL program focused on women’s issues trains women in the media and provides media access and outlets for, by and about women. Through the program implementer’s trainings and mentoring, the program seeks to stimulate political dialogue, enhance women’s issues media coverage, and to galvanize support for women’s human rights.
Current DRL programs in Jordan focus on independent media and the economic empowerment of women.
DRL’s partner implementer seeks to improve the reporting skills of broadcast media professionals, develop women’s radio production skills, develop a radio business news program, and provide accountability on issues ranging from human rights to rule of law.
Another DRL program in Jordan enhances the capacity of civil society and strengthens women’s civil society coalitions, especially at the grassroots levels. The program intends to increase mobilization and action on working women’s rights; develop women’s skills as educators and organizers; assist women to develop strategic alliances with local, national, and international NGOs; and increase public awareness and support for working women’s priorities.
The robust DRL programming in Lebanon focuses on such topics as electoral reform, independent media, the rule of law, and civic and political participation targeting youth and women.
One DRL program implementer provides technical assistance to improve the legal framework for elections in Lebanon and to increase the capacity of electoral authorities so that future elections can be managed in a professional manner, according to accepted international standards.
Another DRL partner seeks to stimulate a national dialogue on challenges facing the country, inform decision-makers of citizen priorities, and help political parties and other civil society organizations reach out to the Lebanese public across confessional lines. The development of issue-based policy is critical to supporting sustainable democratic practices and institutions in Lebanon.
In addition, DRL supports a clinical education program aimed at strengthening the rule of law in Lebanon. Young law students will gain public advocacy skills and provide pro bono consultations to communities that lack access to human rights representation.
DRL programming in Morocco supports the rule of law through human rights law education and prison monitoring.
A DRL partner works to open a law clinic focusing on human rights and public interest law on a pilot basis and in partnership with a Moroccan law school. The clinic will include a public education component for advanced students to conduct public legal education and outreach activities at local schools and in the community.
Another DRL initiative enhances the ability of a local partner NGO to process and monitor prisoner complaints, raise awareness of the treatment of prisoners, and conduct advocacy on behalf of prisoner rights.
DRL supports good governance initiatives in Saudi Arabia.
DRL’s partner organization seeks to address the strengthening of legislative projects and political leadership capacity-building; broaden the exposure of Saudi officials to democratic practices; and promote transparency, oversight, and anti-corruption in municipal councils. This program also works to improve the political environment and receptivity for future programs implemented within the Kingdom.
DRL’s Syria programs support democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
In the West Bank and Gaza, DRL supports anti-corruption and conflict resolution programs.
One DRL program provides Palestinian youth an understanding of corruption and how to combat it through transparency, accountability, and integrity.
Another DRL program is designed to build the capacity of Palestinian Early Childhood Development (ECD) teachers and administrators to incorporate age-appropriate peace and conflict resolution curricula into ECD programs operated by NGOs throughout the West Bank and Gaza.
Thank you very much for that introduction. I am thrilled to be here today and to get the chance to talk with and meet so many of you.
My mom grew up here in Philadelphia so I have always felt a sense of connection to this city. And of course as a human rights guy, I feel lucky to get to give a talk here. Philly has what you might call a strong brand; it’s a city of principles—of liberty and of brotherly (and sisterly) love—core principles that reflect some of our most sacred moral intuitions; principles that undergird a commitment to democracy and human rights.
I want to start today by bringing you greetings from Secretary Clinton—I know that you invited her—a world superstar; historic figure; longtime champion of the human rights of LGBT people. And you got me. What can I say–these things happen. Let’s make the most of it.
More seriously, I know that Secretary Clinton would have liked to have been here today because she is deeply committed to breaking new ground in the quest for LGBT equality in her current job, and I know that she sees, as I do, the role that you play as journalists as critically important to that effort. But one of the nice things about her not being here is that it gives me a chance to brag on my boss a bit.
I was sworn in November of 2009, and from the moment I started my job, Hillary Clinton and her chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, and the team they lead at the State Department have been 110% behind a major push to integrate the human rights of LGBT people into American foreign policy. For Secretary Clinton, this is in part the continuation of a trajectory that included her being the first First Lady to march in a Pride parade in 1999, her work on behalf of LGBT citizens of New York as Senator, her honest and open discussions on the campaign trail in 2008, and now her role as America’s chief diplomat. It is also a continuation of a lifelong commitment to advance a more inclusive idea of who counts—from her early work as an activist for marginalized children, to that truly epic moment when she rejected enduring efforts to put women’s rights to the side, saying plainly “Women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights.”
For a casual listener, that line can sound like just a little bit of wordplay. But it’s not. It’s a crucial philosophical assertion. To say that women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights is to put forth two important truths. First, that women’s rights aren’t special, or optional, or separate. They’re human rights that attach to women because women are people. And second, is the fact that women count, that when we talk about human rights, every woman is part of that universe of humanity to which human rights apply. Human rights belong to women, too.
So it wasn’t just an opportune echo, it was a significant advance, when last year—remarking that she didn’t understand why it wasn’t self-evident, but that if it needed to be said, she’d surely put it just as plainly as she had in Beijing—she said “Gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.”
The human rights of LGBT people aren’t special or separate or optional—they follow from and are part of universal commitments. And LGBT people count as people. LGBT status is irrelevant to one’s claim to human dignity. It is irrelevant one’s deserving respect.
Secretary Clinton’s leadership has been crystal clear. And in the first two and a half years of the Obama administration, senior officials from the State Department have engaged diplomatically with heads of state and cabinet ministers from dozens of countries around the world on behalf of the human rights of LGBT people. We have reached out to encourage protection of those under threat and investigation of hate crimes; we have won support for endorsements of the human rights of LGBT people in international fora, including, two months ago, the first ever UN resolution supporting these rights at the Human Rights Council in Geneva—I was on the Council floor that day and it was an incredibly dramatic moment. There was no doubt that those on both sides of the resolution understood that a tide was changing, unstoppably. We have matched our diplomacy with ramped up efforts to support those advocates and activists on the ground, often in the most difficult places, to organize and advocate for LGBT equality in their communities. Our ambassadors have publicly supported and participated in Pride celebrations. We’ve stood up a new fund that gets emergency assistance to those who are targeted for their advocacy, and we are developing programs that will help network LGBT groups on the ground and build their capacity for advocacy, strategic litigation, and organization building. Our embassies around the world are re-invigorating their efforts to reach out to local actors; we’re developing a toolkit to help Embassy staff maximize the effectiveness of their engagement; and we’re continuing to beef up our reporting in the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices that my bureau, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor publishes each year.
I am a lucky guy. A generation ago, I couldn’t have been an openly gay man in my job. Today, not only do I get to serve in a State Department that is transformed, I get to serve under a Secretary and a President who are committed to progressive change, to amplifying the move toward equality here at home and around the world, and to insisting that LGBT people count.
Before I came into government, I was a professor. By training I’m a philosopher and political theorist. So I have to be mindful of tendencies to stray into the abstract and theoretical. Most of us grew up in history classes that—falsely, I think—taught us that the engine of modern history has been a series of contests between abstractions—contests of religion, contests between capitalism and communism, contests between colonialism and self-determination, and so on. Surely these contests are not meaningless fabrications—they are lenses that help us understand and make sense of collections of events. But the engine of history isn’t ideas; it’s people. And in my work as a diplomat, as I travel the world and meet with foreign leaders, human rights activists, journalists, religious leaders, and others wherever I go, I see that without a doubt, progress—by which I mean real change on the ground for real people—depends not on the beauty or elegance of your ideas; progress depends on the stories you tell about people, about their real lives, their joys, their pains, the injustices they suffer. The way that we come to know that dignity is something supremely valuable is that we come to know stories of people who have had theirs violently and vulgarly denied and trampled and we know stories of those who have courageously, against all odds, stood up to defend themselves or the dignity of others. The stories make ideas real. The narrative precedes the analytic.
I am the first to defend and be enthralled by the elegant aesthetic of the concept of rights that attach to each of us equally in virtue of our shared humanity. However, human rights don’t start with an abstraction, no matter how elegant. Human rights start with the stories we tell.
I want to say a bit more about the role of journalists in this respect. And about the intersection between journalism and free media and human rights. Most often in conversations about human rights, we talk about journalists as rights-holders—as persons entitled to freedom of expression and freedom from retribution—and often we talk about the ways in which journalists, in many, many countries around the world, continue to be abused, harassed and even killed for doing their jobs. And of course it is in this light that one of the indicators we use to tell whether a society respects human rights, including freedom of expression, is that it has a free press, and that journalists can practice their craft.
Our commitment to freedom of expression is grounded in the fact that it is a fundamental freedom, recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is part of that fundamentally human basket of entitlements: the rights that make a life recognizably, distinctively, human. In that sense, we believe in it not because it is productive or instrumentally good, but because it is simply what human dignity demands. Free expression is a right independent of whatever other benefits we see free expression producing.
Nonetheless, if asked, most of us could readily suggest ways that societies that protect freedom of expression benefit from doing so. Some might say that such societies are less likely to have problems with public corruption or exploitation by the most powerful. Others might point out that a free press is critical to the political competition that produces democracy’s dividends. Anyone who has lived in a censored press environment would be able to tell you that a free press is undoubtedly more interesting. Editors of today’s tabloids could probably forgive Pravda for being untrue—it was the fact that it was dull that would have been the real deficiency.
But one of the benefits that is less likely to be mentioned is the fact that in societies in which the stories of individual people are freely shared in the public sphere, there is a perennially refreshed set of reference points for understanding and knowing the human experience. Those stories, in highlighting the joys and pains, particularly of so-called ordinary people, remind us of their humanity, and remind us that human lives are really quite extra-ordinary. They remind us that underneath our shared experience resides a common humanity—the common humanity that grounds a shared set of individual rights and common duties to one another.
Conversely, in societies where the freedom of expression and a free press are curtailed, the stories of people are suppressed—and much more often than not, it’s not just the freedom of expression that is curtailed. Governments that fail to respect the freedom of expression fail to respect the rights of citizens more generally. In order to hold authorities accountable for protecting and respecting rights, we need to know more than that the laws of the land include human rights and that leaders pay lip-service to these commitments in the rhetoric of political speeches. We need to know the stories of real people, and whether they conform to the states’ commitments and obligations.
This is why the stories that you tell as journalists are so important. The stories you tell give a human face to the wrongs perpetrated by governments against the vulnerable. They expose failures to protect. They make plain for readers, listeners, and viewers the costs of the failure to respect human rights. The stories you tell embarrass leaders, outrage citizens, and make undeniable the gaps between rhetoric and reality.
But equally importantly, and often simultaneously in the very same story, by providing an account of particular episodes in particular lives, you paradoxically remind your audience of the universality of the human experience. When we are moved to tears by the story of a mother in Somalia watching her fourth child die of starvation, it is not because she is different, it is because she is the same. And that sameness is fundamental to both the philosophical truth underlying human rights, and to motivating human beings to do more to protect and defend human rights in the here and now.
The stories you tell highlight wrongs and their costs. They also highlight the humanity of specific people, and in so doing, give us cause to believe in the humanity, and human rights, of all people.
In the context of the human rights of LGBT people, I think it’s particularly important that we not lose sight of the role that journalists play in affirming the common humanity of all people, not by making political arguments for equality, but by telling stories about individual lives that provide the evidence for that claim.
Let me give a familiar example—a few years back, when the New York Times announced that it would start carrying wedding announcements for gay couples, a lot of people saw that as important for the political statement it made. The New York Times was endorsing a notion—an abstract one—that gay partnerships were substantively similar to straight ones.
But I would argue that the more powerful effect, particularly in changing the minds of those who didn’t already buy the abstract argument, was in the stories that followed on the pages. Both because the stories about gay couples—meeting, falling in love, taking a break, sorting through a misunderstanding or a logistical challenge, and ending up together—were pretty much the same as the familiar stories of straight couples and the evolution of their relationships, and more simply, because the protagonists in those stories were gay people who were just, well, people, plain and simple.
I’m going to go out on a limb here, and I’m probably going to be the first student of human rights or public official to link the wedding section to human rights, but the simple truth is: In whatever part of journalism you find yourself—from TV news to local radio to photo spreads to the wedding section—the stories you tell are part of the foundation for human rights, because they are the most prevalent and popular public account of what it is to be human. Human rights start with the stories we tell about what it is to be human.
Before concluding I want to say a quick word about not the stories you tell, but rather about the stories you bring to your craft. After all the organization under whose auspices we meet today is as much about shared identity as it is about shared endeavor. And there are a lot of folks who might be understandably skeptical of that. “I’ve never joined,” a friend in D.C. who works for a major newspaper told me, “I’m not a gay journalist, I’m a journalist.” Most of us have had similar thoughts—I have whenever I have participated in LGBT groups organized around my profession. Given that in so many cases, the goal is to get others to not pay attention to something that should be irrelevant to rights or job advancement or acceptance, it can seem odd or even counterproductive to call attention to the supposedly irrelevant. But of course, on the other hand, my friend is wrong—he is a gay journalist. And like any journalist, where he’s come from, including not only being LGBT but having been raised on a farm, having gone to a particular college, having grown up reading certain books, the places he’s traveled to, etc, all shape the way he tells the stories he tells because they shape how he sees the world.
For my own part, I hope that having spent an adolescence often characterized by feeling different and fearing exclusion has enhanced my compassion and empathy for others in my role as a teacher, manager, and diplomat. And in your work, of course, the lives you’ve led inevitably are the prism through which the lives you examine and write about are refracted. The stories you bring are part of the foundation you work from in the stories you tell.
Thank you for inviting me here today. Thank you for the work you do to capture the human story through an ongoing and ever-expanding collection of accounts of individual lives, their joys and their sorrows, their failures and their triumphs. It’s through the stories of others that we come to see their humanity, that we arrive at our intuitive understanding of what human dignity is, why it applies to each of us, and what it demands of each of us. Thank you for the stories you tell.
The United States marks with sadness the second anniversary of the death of human rights defender and journalist Nataliya Estemirova, and the death of Forbes journalist and editor Paul Klebnikov, who died in Russia seven years ago on July 9. Both were killed promoting society’s right to know the truth. The United States supports the efforts of brave journalists across the globe, who like Nataliya and Paul, speak out against abuses and work to secure fundamental freedoms of expression and press.
Secretary Clinton’s Remarks With Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov After their Meeting
PARTICIPANT: The Secretary and the foreign minister are today signing an agreement between the United States of America and the Russian Federation regarding cooperation in adoption of children.
(The document was signed.) (Applause.)
The Secretary and foreign minister are now signing the protocol to extend and amend the Agreement on Cooperation and Research on Radiation Effects for the Purpose of Minimizing the Consequences of Radioactive Contamination on Health and the Environment of January 14, 1994.
(The document was signed.) (Applause.)
The Secretary and foreign minister are now exchanging diplomatic notes to bring the Agreement Concerning the Management and Disposition of Plutonium Designated as No Longer Required for Defense Purposes and Related Cooperation along with its 2006 and 2010 protocols into force.
(The document was signed.) (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you very much. And again, it’s a pleasure for me to welcome the foreign minister back to Washington, and we’ve had a very constructive day of conversations. Before I begin on what we have discussed, I want to say a few words about today’s bombings in Mumbai, India. We condemn these despicable acts of violence designed to provoke fear and division. Those who perpetrated them must know they cannot succeed. The Indian people have suffered from acts of terrorism before, and we have seen them respond with courage and resilience. We are continuing to monitor the situation, including the safety and security of American citizens. Our hearts are with the victims and their families, and we have reached out to the Indian Government to express our condolence and offer support.
I will be traveling to India next week as planned. I believe it is more important than ever that we stand with India, deepen our partnership, and reaffirm our commitment to the shared struggle against terrorism. Neither of our countries – the Russian Federation or the United States – unfortunately are strangers to terrorism. And it has been a mutual goal of both of our presidents to increase our cooperation in order to prevent terrorists from wreaking their violence on innocent Russians, Americans, and others, and to bring those who do so to justice.
I also would like to convey condolences on behalf of the American people, to those who suffered from the tragic sinking of the boat on the Volga River. I am particularly, as a mother, extending my thoughts and prayers to all those mothers and fathers who are suffering the terrible loss of children.
Let me begin by saying that the past two and a half years has been a time of great strides in the relationship between our countries. We have signed a historic arms control treaty and opened a vital new land and air supply route to Afghanistan. We are cooperating on addressing Iran’s nuclear threat, working to coordinate our diplomatic approach to Libya, consulting closely on the changes unfolding in the Middle East. Across the world, we are not only working bilaterally but multilaterally on so many important issues, from counterterrorism to nonproliferation.
Our challenge now is to continue and maintain the momentum in order to deliver more results for both of our people. To that end, Minister Lavrov and I discussed missile defense cooperation. I believe we do have an opportunity to address common challenges in a way that makes Russians, Europeans, and Americans safer, and we are committed to working with both Russia and our NATO allies to do so.
We also, of course, discussed the broader range of issues on which we are cooperating beyond security and arms control. For example, we strongly support Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization. Russia’s membership would allow us to increase trade and deepen our economic ties. Thi is a high priority, and a priority for President Obama and the Administration. It’s part of our broader global effort to promote a rules-based system of economic competition.
We also discussed the increasing emphasis within Russia on democracy, and we obviously, as I have said many times, as our two presidents have discussed, support the rights of Russian civil society to assemble and speak freely, of Russian journalists and bloggers to monitor and report on official actions, and of lawyers and judges to work independently to uphold the rule of law.
I am especially pleased that we were able to reach several new agreements. First, we are signing an agreement on inter-country adoptions. We take very seriously the safety and security of children that are adopted by American parents, and this agreement provides new, important safeguards to protect them. It also increases transparency for all parties involved in the adoption process. And I want to thank Senator Mary Landrieu, the leader of the adoption caucus in the Senate, as well as Congresswoman Karen Bass, who are present with us.
Second, our negotiators have now concluded a visa agreement. We think this is especially important for our businesses, so that business men and women can travel multiple times between our two countries over 36 months on a single visa. This is a big deal for those who are doing business, and we are laying the groundwork for even more trade and travel.
Third, we exchanged diplomatic notes on the U.S. Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement. This brings into force a protocol that Sergey and I signed last year that commits both of our countries to dispose of no less than 34 metric tons of weapons-grade uranium on each side, the equivalent of some 17,000 nuclear weapons.
And fourth, we are renewing the protocol on the effects of radiation, which allows our scientists to collect and analyze epidemiological data together with the cancer risks that come with exposure to radiation.
Fifth, our national aviation agencies today signed an Air Navigation Services Agreement that will increase air traffic control cooperation, enhance information sharing, and ultimately make even more air traffic between our countries even safer.
This relationship, then, now involves cooperation in many different areas, and the Bilateral Presidential Commission that Presidents Obama and Medvedev began, that Minister Lavrov and I have the honor of co-chairing, has emerged as an important vehicle for pursuing our common interests. And we are very committed to continuing to move our relationship forward. And again, I thank the minister for the excellent work that we have done together.
FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) Ladies and gentlemen, first of all, I would like to say that I fully support the words of Hillary Clinton about the shelling in Mumbai. We condemn the people who organized this act, and we extend our condolences to India and the Government of India.
Counterterrorism has a special place in our cooperation with the United States, and we will be building up this cooperation everywhere, including Afghanistan, Middle and Far East, and other regions in the world. Also, I would like to express my gratitude for the condolences that Madam Clinton has just pronounced about the tragic shipwreck on the Volga River. We appreciate these feelings of the American people towards us, and we are grateful for the warm reception to me and my delegation in the framework of this official visit.
This was a very useful visit and very busy visit. I met Mr. Obama in the White House, and I had negotiations with the State of Secretary yesterday. Yesterday, I had a meeting with the Senate of the United States of America, and yesterday, I also met Russian Americans who have a lot of interesting projects that aim to promote closer cooperation of our countries and also went to the broadcaster who is a Russian broadcaster, Voice of America, and they are starting broadcasting in English in Washington. So we thank you very much for all the cooperation.
And speaking about our talks, I fully agree with the assessment of presidential commission. This was a very effective tool created by the two presidents as being coordinated by the State Department and the foreign ministry. There are 18 working groups who are working to the fullest extent in cooperation – in cooperating. And they have created two additional groups, one for innovation, which is very important for the positive agenda and our cooperation, and the second one is for legal issues, which is also very important in our bilateral dialogue.
We have considered the current priority issues in our relationship, including the situation with – I hope that we will be concluding the process of Russia’s accession to the WTO. And just recently here in Washington, Minister of Economy of Russia Elvira Nabiullina, was here, and during her meeting with President Obama today in the White House, we have fully agreed on the necessity to conclude all the necessary formalities.
We have all the opportunities to do so, and as far as I understood today, there is the political will from the United States, and now experts must be working and they must use the political impulse and translate it into practical agreements on paper. We have paid a lot of attention to strategic stability, and we see that the agreement is being followed closely, is being executed, and the mechanism is functioning quite effectively. This is a bilateral consultative committee which has made a number of practical steps that are being stipulated by the agreement. And we also discussed the importance of mutually acceptable solutions on missile defense. We have noted that President Obama has confirmed his readiness to reach understanding – together with Mr. Medvedev to reach an understanding of common policy and creating strong political framework that will let us to start practical cooperation in this important sphere.
And I would like to also highlight the fact that today, we have signed a number of very important agreements. First of all, I would like to note the agreement on adoption issues. Our negotiating teams have been working very effectively. This was the Russian Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Education and Science, and Ombudsman for the Rights of Children Mr. Astakhov, who is today present here. And I think that we will be going towards implementing this agreement, and this will help us get rid of the irritants that have been emerging quite rightfully in the public opinion connected to the destiny of Russian children who were adopted in America. We are very grateful to our American partners for helping us to reach this agreement.
And there are yet – there are two and other agreements that we have signed and prolonged. They have very long names, but they are all about very simple and necessary for everyone. Every person things – those are lowering, minimizing of risks that are connected with radioactive contamination, on health and environment. And the second thing – the second agreement concerns plutonium. It is a very real contribution to nonproliferation regime and enhancing nuclear security.
As the Secretary has just said, we have completed our work on visa regime. It will be formalized very soon. Everything is ready, everything has been agreed, and I may say even that this will open the way to developing our dialogue towards visa-free regime. This aim had been mentioned during Vice President’s – Biden visits to Moscow, and although two years ago probably this idea would have been deemed impossible, today we see that we have all the opportunities to have this kind of aim in our cooperation with the United States, which is being discussed by the European Union today. And about 100 states all over the world have visa-free regime with Russia, including Israel, and this is the precedent.
So concerning bilateral issues, we have made an important stride today towards exercising all those agreements and instructions by the presidents, made at their recent meetings about adoption and visa simplifications. The international part of our discussion concerned not only some specific questions, but systematic problems – the new situation in the international relations, the problems that emerge in different regions, and that are very much connected with the discussion of the way we can use the democratization and rule of law principles to our policies. And I believe it was a very useful conversation about what role of – the United Nations has in these processes. The United States and Russia have confirmed that the – as permanent members of the Security Council, we are very much interested in promoting peace and security globally.
We have discussed many other topics; for example, the situation of the Iranian nuclear threat and Korean Peninsula. This is very important for nonproliferation regime, and this will help us avoid other conflicts. And we also talked about Libya and situation in other eastern and African countries about the situation in Afghanistan. We have been operating – cooperating very closely in various areas. And in the light of Quartet’s meeting yesterday in Washington, which was very useful and it helped our experts to prepare specific documents. We have also discussed the topic of conventional arms in Europe. We are very much interested in finding mutually accepted framework to reach an agreement on the new control of conventional arms in this very important treaty and – which is crucial for Russia and the United States. And I would like to note that we had a very useful – we also talked about our cooperation in the Arctic and Antarctic, which is also very important. Also we identified that there is a possibility to bring our positions closer in the issues where we still have some misunderstandings like bilateral cooperation and international agenda. And in comparison to previous years, we see these problems as workable, and we understand that in some spheres we do not have converging interests, but we promote same aims, and we maintain dialogue about how to most effectively move to those aims.
And in the end, I would like to say about one symbolic thing. It is 13th of July today, and in 1728 this day, the first expedition of Vitus Bering to Kamchatka started, which proved that Eurasia and America are divided by a gulf. And these days, a group of Americans and Russians are going through the Bering Gulf in commemoration of this historic date. And the day after tomorrow, on the 15th of July, we will mark another memorable day. It’s 270 years since the second St. Paul ship crew headed to Kamchatka leaded by Aleksei Chirikov.
And we talked about Alaska a lot today, and we have a principled solution of presidents about the necessity to develop cooperation in our trips through Bering Gulf, and we spoke about specific projects and events that might be organized that would be very much interesting for people who live in Alaska and Chukotka, and we discussed this today. And also I think this means that we have a new quality to our cooperations. We not only think about strategic things; we also care about our citizens, and I think that this is a lesson for us – the lesson for our cooperation for many years ahead.
MS. NULAND: We have two questions on the American side and two questions on the Russian side. First on the American side, Kirit Radia please.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. A question for the both of you. Your French counterpart has said that Colonel Qadhafi is looking for a way out of Libya. There are reports that he is running out of resources, out of fuel for his troops. Can you tell us if you know anything about him being on the ropes? Is there any diplomatic play that could get him out of the country?
And a question for the minister on Syria. Could you explain why Russia has blocked action in the United Nations to condemn the Syrian Government for the crackdown on protestors in Syria? Is it now not time for international action with now more than 1,000 people killed? Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: So instead of one, there are three questions.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I know, yeah. That’s the way it is. I know.
FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: Yeah. I know.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me take the one you directed at me about Libya. The foreign minister and I discussed at length and compared notes today on our respective diplomacy with the TNC, and we very much appreciate the diplomatic work that Russia is doing through its special envoy. We are still getting contradictory signals from Colonel Qadhafi’s camp. He has yet to meet the redlines that are set by the international community to cease violence against his people, withdraw his forces, and step down from power. So although neither of us can predict to you the exact day or hour that Qadhafi will leave power, we do understand and agree that his days are numbered. We will continue to work closely with our international partners, including Russia, to increase the pressure on him and his regime, and we will keep looking for a way to achieve a ceasefire, end the military action, give the Libyan people a chance to plot their own way forward, and I think both Sergey and I believe that the United Nations needs to be in the lead and needs to be helping to organize the international community so that we are ready when that does finally happen.
FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) And I would like add that for sure the situation around Libya is the case where our position is a bit diverging. This is all about the way the resolution of Security Council is being followed. But in the parentheses, I would like to say that on this topic, we have less misunderstandings with United States than with some European countries. We are unite in that we have to start political process as soon as possible, and we have different channels – official and not very official channels to work through to create conditions for this process. We have voiced out our position for many times, and there is a special presidential envoy, Mr. Margelov who is working actively in the region with both sides of the conflict, and I think that the whole set of the measures being taken by NATO members and Russia and the regional countries as well and also African Union, whose initiative we support, will lead to an agreement to reach a ceasefire and to start negotiations. There is no other way to solve this issue, as any other issue in the modern world.
And speaking about Syria, you are asking why Russia is blocking the resolution that would condemn Asad. Diplomacy does not exist to condemn and start putting on political scores; our goal is to solve problems, but just condemning people without any solution will not lead us to anything. So we believe that the example of approach is our common feeling toward Yemen and our actions with Yemen, we do not propose to condemn – we do not to take – do not want to take resolutions to support one or other country. Russia, European Union, and the Arab League and the Persian Gulf states insist that opposition and the other side would start negotiations and would start following the roadmap, and I’m sure that, for the destiny of the region, for all of our interests, it is absolutely important that we are responsible but not wishy-washy to this situation. And I just want you to understand our position on this.
MS. NULAND: Fayed Andrey Cherkovsky.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) My question is to the leaders of the both delegations. You have just signed the adoption agreement; does that mean that the moratorium for adoption by the American families will be lifted soon? And why did it take so long to draw up this document? You even spent less time to work out the START agreement than this issue. Why does it happen so?
FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) First of all, statistically speaking, it’s not right to say that we worked longer than at the START agreement. I think we managed to do it a bit quicker. And speaking about the second thing, this is the first agreement of such nature that we agreed with Italy, and we prepared it for four years; and today we are going to sign such kind of agreement with Israel. And we reached agreement with the United States not overnight because we had to take into account the legal peculiarities of American legal system, because there are different states who have different legislations that, even for the beginning of the negotiations, we needed to take a very serious political will about American partners.
And that’s why this agreement has become equal, absolutely bilateral; it has guarantees and safeguards for the both sides that would allow people to make sure that an adoptive parent is psychologically stable, that the family has come through a special filter of authorized bodies authorized by the United States Government, and that the adoptive parents provide access of Russian diplomats to the children living in the United States. These are the most important components of this issue, and it is going to be in force very soon. It is now going to be ratified in U.S., but we will be ratifying it so we discussed some technical details that will allow us to speed this process up.
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Interruption in audio) – is that I think it was a useful process to share (interruption in audio) common problems. We both want the same outcomes. We want all children – whether they be Russian children or American children – to be able to have loving homes with families that will take good care of them. And, of course, the United States wants to be sure that we meet all of the concerns that the Russian side raised, and we believe we have.
MS. NULAND: From the American side, Arshad Mohammed from Reuters. Please.
QUESTION: Mr. Lavrov – excuse me – yesterday at the Russian embassy you described an approach toward Iran on the nuclear issue, one of what you called a step-by-step process whereby the Iranians might take steps to address some of the IAEA’s concerns, and the P-5+1 in return would take steps to ease the pressure of sanctions. Can you shed – can you give us detail on the kinds of steps you would like to see the Iranians take under such an approach? And Secretary Clinton, can you address the possibility of easing sanctions early in the process? Historically, I think the Administration has been reluctant to do that, because of the feeling that to do so would be to give up your leverage at the start of a negotiation.
FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) This is yet another example of the fact that there are problems in our agenda. We have the same final aims; this aim is to avoid proliferation of nuclear arms, but, at the same time, we do have some individual approaches concerning the way we move to this goal. And we have some coinciding points here; we have a collective document of 5+1 or 3+3 – whatever you call it – which is supported by the Russian Federation, which contains the proposal of the six to Iran about how to settle all the issues that will allow all of us to see that the character of their nuclear program is absolutely civilian, and restore their rights to this activity. This document has been given to the Iranian side about two years ago as far as I remember, and it specifies everything that has to be done by the Iranian side. It is available for studying; there is nothing sensational about it.
Because everything Iran has to do is based on the requirements of the IAEA, and everything is well known, and these requirements were supposed by the Security Council of the UN. When we of Russia say about the necessity to follow a phased and mutual process, we do not doubt this mutual position of the 3+3 group; we propose, on each requirement of the IAEA, to create some kind of a roadmap, starting from the easiest questions and in the end there will be the most difficult ones that would require time. And we are sure that the response to each specific step of Iran would be followed by some reciprocal step, like freezing some sanctions and shortening the volume of sanctions. And we have formulated our proposals. It has been handed over to American and Chinese partners in the framework of 5+1. Today we discussed this, and we said that the experts will inquire into these things and make a decision.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think as the minster said, we both share the same goal and we have worked together with others to achieve that goal of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. And we will be sending a team of our experts to consult with Russian experts to discuss ways that we can move forward. I have told Minister Lavrov that we are concerned by the failure of the responses thus far, from Iran to High Representative Ashton, and the resistance of Iran to IAEA requests for further access regarding military-related activities. But nevertheless, we are committed to our dual track of both pressure and engagement, and we want to explore with the Russians ways that we can perhaps pursue more effective engagement strategies.
MS. NULAND: The last question from the Russian side for Maria Tabak of RIA Novosti.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Question is to the – both leaders. You said that you’re going to sign a new visa agreement. Would you please specify the terms of the signing? And what is your prognosis about some obstacles on the way to this agreement, knowing that businesspeople and citizens support the visa simplifications?
FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) Well, the answer is simple. This will happen this year, this is for sure, and it will happen before Christmas, even Catholic Christmas. Speaking about obstacles, there are no such. As I have said, the agreement is absolutely ready. We just have to follow through some formalities, some technical issues. That’s it.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s absolutely right, and we are very pleased about this step toward greater visa liberalization between our two countries, and look forward to all the Christmas travel that we’ll see. (Laughter.)
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
Thank you, Dunja, for the warm welcome and for all the work that your office and our Lithuanian hosts have put into making this conference a reality. I am grateful for your including me today on this panel of experts. I value the input that my colleagues have shared today, and I hope to build upon their helpful remarks by sharing some thoughts of my own, as a government official, on what we, the participating States, must do to ensure the safety of journalists.
I am sorry to say that the topic of this conference is all too fitting and necessary. We know, unfortunately, that the threat against independent broadcast, print, and online journalists in our region is very real.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, in its global campaign against impunity, has noted that 546 journalists have been killed around the world with complete impunity since 1992. Three countries from our region – Russia, Tajikistan, and Turkey – are on the list of the top 20 countries that CPJ has recorded with unsolved, or in some instances entirely unaddressed, cases of murdered journalists. These murders are the most tragic cases, but there are hundreds more involving non-fatal violence against journalists that compounds the chilling effect.
Government officials in our region too often cast the reporting of what is happening in their countries as the problem to be addressed, rather than to focus on the underlying social issues that are being reported. Restrictive laws and administrative measures constrain the fundamental freedom of expression and independent media outlets and their employees are subjected to government harassment, as well as threatening actions by private actors tolerated by governments.
Last October a court in Uzbekistan convicted Voice of America stringer Abdumalik Boboyev of “libel and insulting the Uzbek people,” and fined him approximately $8,000. Boboyev told the Committee to Protect Journalists the conviction was in retaliation for his critical reporting on the widespread government corruption, human rights abuses, the weak economy and flaws in the Uzbek healthcare system. In May, the government denied Boboyev an exit visa to travel to Germany, where he had been awarded a scholarship from the Hamburg Foundation for the Politically Persecuted.
In April, Turkmen authorities confined 80-year old Amangelen Shapudakov, a Radio Free Europe contributor, to a psychiatric hospital after he criticized a local government official for corruption in an interview with Radio Azatlyk, RFE’s Turkmen Service. Still, we welcome the Government of Turkmenistan’s pledge to the Chairman-in-Office during a meeting in Ashgabat last week to welcome a visit by Dunja Mijatovic before October, and hope for a frank discussion of this and other cases.
You all well know the challenges – many of you are journalists yourselves, working under repressive conditions despite the grave risks – and we are here today to broach solutions that may well involve governments and journalists working in partnership. I want to note with appreciation the presentation this morning by Professor Mikhail Fedotov, Chairman of the Russian President’s Council on the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights. He presented an analytical framework describing the various components of journalists’ safety, including physical, legal, informational, economic and psychological dimensions of safety. He also spoke about the shared responsibility for journalists’ safety on the part of government, the media, businesses, civil society, and the journalists themselves. Let me be clear: Governments bear the fundamental responsibility to ensure that journalists are free to practice their professions without interference or reprisal by state authorities. We must be frank about this basic governmental responsibility as an essential step in mustering the necessary political will – to combat violence against journalists from any quarter.
As one of the few government officials on this panel today, I wish to focus on three areas where the participating States must take action: First, and quite simply, we have a responsibility to uphold the solemn OSCE commitments we all have made in the area of media freedom. These commitments clearly outline the importance of pluralistic, independent media and reflect our pledges – reaffirmed on multiple occasions – to foster it, not muzzle it. We owe it to ourselves and to our citizens to make them a reality. No excuses and no delay.
Second, we have a responsibility to investigate and prosecute violence against journalists, whether the suspected perpetrators are to be found inside or outside of government. Debates may rage in this room about when it is necessary or whether it can ever be appropriate to restrict speech, but none of us have laws on our books that make murder of, or violence, against citizens – including journalists – acceptable. When cases of violence against journalists languish, when justice is denied for the killing or beating of a journalist just because authorities do not like what he or she says, the rule of law that is necessary for modern societies to function successfully is undermined. Impunity must end.
We welcomed the news from Russia last week that a third suspect in the 2006 murder case of journalist Anna Politkovskaya – apparently the trigger man – had been apprehended, and we hope this will lead to a full public description of the crime and accountability for all involved. We call on Russia to take further steps towards addressing the problem of impunity for those who attack journalists, and will continue to raise the cases of Paul Klebnikov and Natalia Estemirova.
On February 7, unknown assailants attacked and seriously injured Hikmatullo Sayfullozoda, press secretary of the opposition Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan and editor of its newspaper. The United States and the European Union called on the government to conduct a thorough investigation of the attack and prosecute those responsible to the fullest extent of the law.
Third, we have a responsibility to ensure a public, political climate that is conducive to the functioning of independent, pluralistic media. Condemning and prosecuting violence against journalists is one key way to create such a climate. Fostering open, frank public dialogue and debate on the whole range of domestic and foreign issues is also crucial. Government officials can lead by example, set the tone, and make it clear that they respect the role of free media in society, even when they disagree with a journalist’s reporting or views. Government officials can ensure that their ministries and departments establish professional press offices, make documents available to the press, and hold press conferences where journalists can ask – and even sometimes receive answers to – important questions about the functioning of government. Our governments need to do much more than apprehend murderers of journalists; we need to treat journalists as the vital partners in public service that they are.
Unfortunately, that is clearly not the case today in Belarus. The government there continues to severely restrict media by on-going efforts to close two of the few remaining independent newspapers in the country, Nasha Niva and Narodnaya Volya. In addition to threatening and detaining local journalists, the government continues to expel foreign journalists and ban their re-entry. President Lukashenko recently criticized Belarusian journalists who work with foreign organizations and ordered the government to “make sure those media organizations no longer work on our territory.” This is taking Belarus further away from Europe and from the norms of democratic society enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act and many subsequent declarations, including most recently the 2010 Astana Commemorative Declaration.
Political leaders in my own country are often the most disparaged and lampooned of public figures, and are often made to feel as if the press will never give them proper credit for their accomplishments. Former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson once said, “If one morning I walked on top of the water across the Potomac River, the headline that afternoon would read: ‘The President Can’t Swim.’”
The laws and policies that we as government officials are pursuing may be slowed down as public debate rages about them, questions and criticisms fly, and we are forced to more clearly articulate why something is necessary or beneficial – or to reconsider our policies or plans. I understand this all too well, as I came to government after spending much of my career in the non-governmental sector. I went from a life of criticizing and advising governments (not least my own) to a position where I am obliged to explain, to our Congress and to the press, what our policies are and why they sometimes don’t seem to be as effective as we would hope. Having been on both sides of the public dialogue, I can say that in either case, the role of the media is indispensible for illuminating facts, exposing abuses so that they may be corrected, explaining perspectives, and generating public momentum behind deserving policies. We need to commend the work of journalists in the effective governance and development of our societies, not constrain it.
As diplomats, journalists, or civil society representatives, we may cajole each other, point fingers, or win adherents to our sides of the argument in debates around media freedom or the press in gatherings such as this. But that cannot substitute for governments living up to their commitments and demonstrating the will that is necessary to ensure that journalists are protected, that our societies are open, and that the free flow information and ideas serves as a force for innovation, reform, growth and development within our countries, across the region and around the world.
I look forward to the rest of this conference and the ideas it will generate in support of media freedom, the work of journalists, and a successful future for our region. Thank you very much.
The United States deeply regrets the loss of life and the injuries to others on May 26, after demonstrators in Tbilisi chose not to end or relocate their protest after their permit expired at midnight on May 25. We are concerned about reports of excessive use of force against some protesters and journalists. At the same time, we are concerned by indications that elements within the protesting groups appeared more interested in a violent confrontation than in a peaceful demonstration.
We have noted our support for peaceful and lawful freedom of expression and assembly as key components of a vibrant democracy. It is important that all concerned respect the rule of law. We hope this principle will be the hallmark of how the Georgian authorities deal with those involved in the May 26 confrontation. We urge the full and transparent investigation of reports of excessive use of force and allegations of mistreatment of some protestors who were detained.
We also urge all sides to engage in meaningful dialogue and to work together constructively to advance and strengthen Georgia’s ongoing democratic reforms, particularly on electoral code reform leading up to the 2012 and 2013 elections.
Thank you, Chair.
The United States strongly condemns the abduction and killing of reporter Syed Saleem Shehzad. His work reporting on terrorism and intelligence issues in Pakistan brought to light the troubles extremism poses to Pakistan’s stability. We support the Pakistani government’s investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death.
We remain committed to helping the government and people of Pakistan as they work to bring peace and stability to the country.
The United States welcomes the release of the foreign journalists in Libya, including two U.S. citizens, and thanks all of the governments and individuals who worked on behalf of our citizens.
We call upon the Libyan government to immediately release all U.S. citizens and others who are being unjustly detained. Qadhafi and his regime must allow journalists to carry out their work within Libya free from fear and intimidation and to respect the universal rights of everyone in Libya, including U.S. citizens and others. We will continue to work relentlessly to secure the release of all U.S. citizens unjustly detained in Libya and — with the help of the international community — hold accountable those responsible for the reprehensible human rights abuses against the Libyan people and others within Libya.