World Press Freedom OP-ED
May 03, 2010
The U.S. Embassy in Sana'a is proud to celebrate World Press Freedom Day on May 3. The United Nations General Assembly declared this day to be World Press Freedom Day to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Yemen is a signatory.
The U.S. Embassy considers freedom of the press as the primary instrument for the public to hold its government accountable. In democratic societies, the press promotes accountability and transparency; it provides a forum for civic debate; it helps policymakers engage the electorate to strengthen government responsiveness to social problems; and it enhances the citizens' trust in their government.
The U.S. Department of State's 2009 Human Rights Report on Yemen noted serious restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and continued harassment and intimidation of journalists. During 2009, more than 20 newspapers were closed or pressured to close, physical attacks on journalists continued and citizens' internet usage was noticeably restricted by the government. A country without a free press - free from intimidation and "self-censorship" - cannot fully understand, gauge, or respond to the social, economic and political needs of its citizens.
Nowhere is freedom of the press and freedom of information undergoing a greater evolution than on the Web. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently described the new tools that enable citizens to exercise their rights of free expression by circumventing politically motivated censorship. She told an audience in January that "both the American people and nations that censor the internet should understand that our government is committed to helping promote internet freedom." She stated that government censorship contravenes the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which tells us that all people have the right "to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
By honoring World Press Freedom Day [today], the U.S. Embassy is commemorating the fundamental principles of press freedom, paying solemn tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty, and highlighting the role of a free press in ensuring responsible, democratic governance.