Editor’s note: The following remarks were given by Raheel Raza who was asked to participate in a panel discussion held by the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
TIME magazine named journalists who were killed or imprisoned journalists as their “Person of the Year 2018.” They called them “the guardians.”
The list includes Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in the Saudi consulate in Turkey, and the five gunned down members of the staff of the The Capital, an Annapolis, Maryland newspaper dating back to before the American Revolution.
Also included was harrassed Philippino journalist Maria Ressa and Wa Lone and Kyaw (Joe) Soe Oo, two young Reuter journalists jailed for seven years for documenting the deaths of 10 Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar (the killers got 10 years).
These journalists were chosen for “taking great risks in pursuit of greater truths, for the imperfect but essential quest for facts, for speaking up and for speaking out.”
This is what freedom of expression and journalism is all about. All of these “guardians” were exposing violence, injustice and oppression. This honor by TIME is very meaningful at a time when there are still hundreds of journalists out there who are still imprisoned or fearful for their lives while trying to present the facts.
What stops journalists from doing their job and subjects them to violence?
The world of journalism has become so dangerous that, after 70 years, journalists are still unable to speak about some critical issues and navigate what they have set out to do without their lives being threatened. At least 52 journalists were been murdered in 2018.
Sitting here in the security of the West, we are critical of human rights abuses in the so-called Third World regarding the oppression of journalists. Yet, let’s for a moment see what’s happening in the “First World”:
Are we really enjoying the freedoms offered to us and are we adhering to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)?
Article 19 of UDHR, which I uphold with all my heart and soul, reads”
“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.”
If we are to move forward to the next 70 years, we must uphold freedom of press. Only then can we rightly say that we are following what the UDHR has set out for us.
In order to promote free speech, we have to be non-partisan and listen to both the Left and Right. In fact as far as I am concerned, left and right are just directions. What we should be focused upon is the safety and security of our country and the protection of all our freedoms.
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