I was due to be in Istanbul today to visit journalists in prison. Unfortunately the ministry of justice refused us permission. I had to abort my visit, which gave me the opportunity to dedicate much of my time to help the IFJ secretariat coordinate our World Press Freedom Day. This year, we could well succeed in achieving the widest mobilisation of our unions worldwide.
In Latin America leaders of our affiliates converged on Santiago in Chile in a union fest lasting three days and including seminars, lobby of government and culminating in an international conference on media and democracy. Our African colleagues organised a continent-wide protest to highlight journalists in jail in Eritrea where some 30 journalists have been detained incommunicado for up to 10 years. Leaders of our African federation attended a session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights to press the adoption of a resolution on the safety of journalists. In the Asia-Pacific region, the IFJ released in Delhi their ninth annual South Asia Press Freedom report while in Manila our union in the Philippines marked the day remembering journalists killed in the 2009 Ampatuan Town massacre. Other events, fund-raising, forums and demonstrations were held in Sydney, Kula Lumpur and Colombo. Our Arab unions marked the day on the theme “Solidarity with journalists on the frontline of the Arab spring” with rallies, seminars, and pickets in many capitals putting them at the forefront of the fight for change in the Arab world. In Europe, unions in the Netherlands, Italy and Belgium carried out several activities on the day but it is in London that the Flashmob event carried out by NUJ photographers made the biggest impact.
Our union in Britain in tandem with “I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist!” campaign has been confronting the creeping bans on pictures taken in some of the popular public spaces. The IFJ has been supporting the campaign by the NUJ to change anti-terrorism legislation in particular the notorious section 44, which has been found by the European Court of Human Rights to breach Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The section was suspended pending a review of counter-terrorism powers, including the use of terrorism legislation in relation to photography, but police however continues to abuse its powers by using the counter-terrorism measures as a general stop-and-search provision.
Flashmob outside City Hall has been the best activity on press freedom day that put a spotlight on the laws and policies used by authorities to undermine journalists’ rights and civil liberties. Photographers took pictures in a place where the police service still act as if they legal powers or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict photographer's work.