This is World Press Freedom Day, a solemn day in which murdered, tortured, imprisoned, sued, deported, etc., journalists are remembered and honored.

world press freedom dayUNESCO counts 372 journalists murdered since 2006, most of them hunted down and slaughtered and only few losing their lives in actual combat.

Rubbing salt in the wounds is that nine of ten of the murders are never solved, according to Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights of UNESCO. Most countries that UNESCO polled on what they were doing about the murders didn’t even respond.

Pillay and others are on the warpath against the “impunity” enjoyed by those who oppress and frustrate the press in any way. She calls it a “battle” to win recognition for this vast injustice against a sea of indifference and dodging.

The 51-page UNESCO report (PDF) says that while murders are deplorable, the great bulk of press persecutions and blockages take place at the local level.
Reporters who see other reporters threatened, sued, or otherwise harassed, become intimidated and pull back their horns when dealing with the subject at hand, she said.

Congress Focuses on Alleged PR Abuses

This is a red-letter day for the O’Dwyer Co. and members of the PR Society not only because the UN and others are focusing on abuses of the press, but Congress itself has opened a probe into PR contracts of 11 government agencies dating back to Oct. 1, 2008.

Schumer, Maloney
Schumer, Maloney
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo) and Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) should take a close look at the statements sent to them by PRS chair Gerry Corbett and COO Bill Murray demanding that the investigation be “fair” and “balanced.”

I am sending McCaskill and Portman a portfolio of documents showing the hypocrisy of Corbett and Murray in making such demands of the Committee.

The same materials, including this story, are being mailed to New York Senator Charles Schumer and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, our Congresswoman in the 14th Congressional District where we live. Pillay, media and other possibly interested parties will be contacted.

Pillay lays major blame for press persecutions on failure of governments to act.

What Is “Fair” About Numerous PR Society Practices?

How “fair” and “balanced” are the PRS policies that block members from seeing who is in their Assembly, what the delegates say, or how they vote?

How “fair” was it to deprive members of their printed directory of members without a vote in the Assembly?

How “fair” was it for staff to move h.q. downtown without a vote in the Assembly? How “fair” was it not to let the Committee for a Democratic PRS do a blast e-mail to the membership in 2010?

How “fair” is it to members, the press and academics to withhold transcripts of the Assembly since 2005? How can reporters cover PRS if they are denied access not only to Assembly transcripts but to the audit and quarterly reports?

How “fair” is it to conceal from member prospects the fact that they will be second-class citizens, unable to hold national office or serve on the Ethics Board, until they pay $410 (in addition to dues/initiation fee) and become APR?

How “fair” is it for Corbett, Murray and other PRS leaders and staff to publicize 23 pages of charges against me and then shut down discussion of them on the PRS website four days after I started to rebut them one by one?

How “fair” is it to the members and the PR industry for PRS leaders/staff to ignore a plea by the National Press Club to end the O’Dwyer boycott?

How “fair” is it to this reporter to be under verbal and written threat of being “beaten to a pulp” by an Assembly delegate whose identity is known to at least one national director?

Move to Democratize PRS Flopped

The failure of initiatives in 2009-10 to open national posts to non-APR members for the first time since the 1970s showed that only strong forces from the outside can bring needed reforms to PRS.

A PRS election reform launched in 2010 that hoped to break the stranglehold “accredited” members have had on governance since the mid-1970s was trashed in the 70% APR Assembly. The initiative of the Committee for a Democratic PRS never had a chance although led by prominent members Richard Edelman, Arthur Stevens and Dave Rickey.

The petition immediately garnered 325 signatures including those of 2001 president Kathy Lewton, Gold Anvil winner Ed Block and eight college PR profs. The drive stalled when the APRs (only 18% of the membership) refused to let the Committee blast e-mail the members about the proposal.

States Act Against Internet, Social Media

The UN and media rights groups marking today said the “Arab spring” has eased government control of journalists in those countries but that China, Russia and Iran are among many countries with a “tight grip” on journalists.

Amnesty International says states are blocking search engines, torturing activists to get their Facebook and Twitter passwords, and passing laws that control what people can talk about online.

Criticizing authorities online has become dangerous. Web figures were killed in Bahrain, Mexico, India and Syria, said Reporters without Borders.

However, Widney Brown, senior director for international law at Amnesty International, said journalists and activists are creating ways to by-pass internet controls.

“The opening of the digital space has allowed activists to support each other as they fight for human rights, freedom and justice around the world,” he said.

Freedom House gave the U.S. a lower ranking in press freedom. It cited excessive use of force by police handling the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011.

The Reporters without Borders annual Press Freedom Index dropped the U.S. from 20th place to 47th for the same reason.

Britain got taken down a few notches for riot-related press restrictions. Media are not allowed to report the existence of an injunction against coverage of celebrities and the rich.