IFJ Welcomes US Statement on Press Freedom and Tissainayagam

The International Federation of

Journalists (IFJ) welcomes a statement issued by the President of the United States,

Barrack Obama, highlighting the fundamental importance of press freedom in

defending other freedoms and rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of

Human Rights.


Mr Obama drew

attention in his statement on May 1, ahead of World Press Freedom Day on May 3,

to the “distressing reality” of journalists jailed or harassed for the content

of their work, including senior Sri Lankan journalist J.S. Tissainayagam.


Tissainayagam is currently on trial in

Colombo accused

of terrorism for the content of his writing.


For the President’s full statement, see below or go to:






May 1, 2009


Statement by the

President in honor of World Press Freedom Day


World Press Freedom Day is annually observed on May 3 to

remind us all of the vital importance of this core freedom.  It is a day

in which we celebrate the indispensable role played by journalists in exposing

abuses of power, while we sound the alarm about the growing number of journalists

silenced by death or jail as they attempt to bring daily news to the public.


Although World Press Freedom Day has only been celebrated

since 1993, its roots run deep in the international community.   In

1948, as people across the globe emerged from the horrors of the Second World

War, nations saw fit to enshrine in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights

the fundamental principle that 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.”


Even as the world recognizes the central and indisputable

importance of press freedom, journalists find themselves in frequent

peril.  Since this day was first celebrated some sixteen years ago, 692

journalists have been killed.  Only a third of those deaths were linked to

the dangers of covering war; the majority of victims were local reporters

covering topics such as crime, corruption, and national security in their home

countries.  Adding to this tragic figure are the hundreds more each year

who face intimidation, censorship, and arbitrary arrest – guilty of nothing

more than a passion for truth and a tenacious belief that a free society depends

on an informed citizenry.  In every corner of the globe, there are

journalists in jail or being actively harassed: from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe,

Burma to Uzbekistan, Cuba

to Eritrea. 

Emblematic examples of this distressing reality are figures like J.S. Tissainayagam in Sri

Lanka, or Shi Tao and Hu Jia in China.  We

are also especially concerned about the citizens from our own country currently

under detention abroad:  individuals such as Roxana Saberi in Iran, and Euna Lee and Laura Ling in North Korea.


Today, I lend my voice of support and

admiration to all those brave men and women of the press who labor to expose

truth and enhance accountability around the world.  In so doing, I recall

the words of Thomas Jefferson: "The basis of our

governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to

keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a

government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not

hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”



further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919



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