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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Freedom of press under attack

No, I am not talking about press freedom in a totalitarian state such as China, Iran and Saudi Arabia. I'm talking about our neighbor down south, the United State of America. Reporters Without Borders recently released the Worldwide Press Freedom Index. This year the U.S. ranks 53rd, 9 places behind its rank last year, which is significantly behind other industrialized, First-World countries, such as Canada which ranks 16. The Christian Science Monitor, citing the index, reports:
Relations between the media and the Bush administration sharply deteriorated after the president used the pretext of "national security" to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his "war on terrorism." The zeal of federal courts which, unlike those in 33 US states, refuse to recognize the media's right not to reveal its sources, even threatens journalists whose investigations have no connection at all with terrorism.

Freelance journalist and blogger Josh Wolf was imprisoned when he refused to hand over his video archives. Sudanese cameraman Sami al-Haj, who works for the pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera, has been held without trial since June 2002 at the US military base at Guantanamo, and Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein has been held by US authorities in Iraq since April this year.

The world's worst violators of press freedoms remains unchanged from last year: North Korea, Eritrea, Turkmenistan, Cuba, Burma, Saudi Arabia, Iran and China. Iraq isn't much better, ranking 153rd out of 168 countries.
So what exactly is press freedom? Press freedom is not only to report what's happening in the world today which may impact you and me, but also to report unequivocally the unbiased truth in a responsible manner and be faithful to its audiences. Although the major presses in U.S. have supreme worldwide coverages, they failed miserably in reporting quality news and adhering to an unbiased coverage. Take a look, for example, over the recent controversial speech the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, gave in front of United Nations Generally Assembly. After the speech major U.S. news sources, including Fox News, not only fiercely criticizes Hugo Chavez's ultra-left wing politics, but also denounce the U.N. as an incompetent group of nations, co-conspired with Third-World and totalitarian states to intentionally and ultimately topple the U.S. government and undermine the national security. One of their "journalist", Mr. Eric Shawn, even went as far as written a book, titled "The U.N. Exposed", to further denounce the U.N. as a hopelessly flawed concept, in need of major overhaul and possible disbandment, and suggested how the White House should be more autonomous in its own decisions. Now, how can a major news network be this ignorant and dismissal of true facts when it is the U.S. government whom undermines the security of its own people. It's inconceivable that one can be so ignorant when it is the fact that U.S. had repeatedly exercised its veto power in the past in favor of its allies to undermine U.N.'s goal of international peace and security. Other prominent examples of the twist of truth in U.S. media include the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Iraq invasion, and this summer's war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

So, are the American press truly "free"? Could we rely on them to bring us true perspectives? It's hard to say, but eventually we should all read news from other resources and countries for an unbiased view. If the American press can't faithfully report their news, they're no better than any other government censored news agency in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, or North Korea.

The Canadian presses are not doing much better. The local press, such as CTV, are always one-sided and leaning slightly towards the right. They're also written and reported in a tabloid format to entice and attract mindless viewers. At the national level, CBC is doing a bit better by providing meaningful documentaries and programs for a more educated audience, but then its news is once again biased toward the right.

Other attacks on the freedom of press include last year's cartoon controversy.

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