A Free Press for All Nations

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On July 19th 2017, at Korea Press Center (Seoul), a joint press conference was held by Journalist Association Korea (JAK) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) under the banner of “Press Freedom and Democracy in the Post-Truth Era”.

In attendance as guest speakers were Shirin Ebadi (Honorary Director, Reporters Without Borders and 2003 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize), Christophe Deloire (Secretary General, Reporters Without Borders), and Kim Joo-eon (General Advisor, Journalist Association Korea).

By now, freedom of speech and the right to a free press has become common knowledge across most Democratic nations. And yet—ironically as it sounds—it has all at once become just as crucial to address the issues of what is being known as “The Post-Truth Era” in which fake news is fast rising as the biggest dilemma and fact-checking, its necessary partner.

Each presenter gave a 15-minute speech on their primary issues of concern.

For Ebadi, that was journalists that continue to be abused and imprisoned in her home country, Iran. Since the 1970s Iranian Revolution, freedom of the press has not been guaranteed for reporters under the repressive rule of Ayatollah Khomeini. By Constitution, the government should protect journalists and provide medical services to imprisoned reporters that have been mistreated. However, the Iranian government has done no such thing claiming to have no money. Instead, they have been draining national capital into aiding wars in neighboring Middle Eastern countries behind the scenes.

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Shirin Ebadi (Honorary Director of Reporters Without Borders and 2003 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize)

In an overview of the work that Reporters Without Borders has accomplished since its founding in 1985, Secretary General Christophe Deloire outlined the severity of the terrible conditions that many journalists around the world undergo just to provide a more well-rounded perspective of the truth. In just the past year, around 800 reporters died worldwide due to incidents related to their occupation. Deloire then stressed the importance of creating a safer environment for media reporting so that more members of the world community would be willing to become members of the journalism sector.

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Christophe Deloire (Secretary General, Reporters Without Borders)

General Advisor to JAK Kim Joo-eon touched on the press situation in South Korea, noting that while Korea’s press played a crucial role in the eventual impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye, the majority of media outlets were never the first ones to initiate any action. Even the mass protests and candlelight vigils on Gwanghuamun Square were sparked mainly by citizen communication through social media platforms. A new President and administration does not mean that past issues have been erased. Members of the Korean press must acknowledge their shortcomings in the past and work to be proactive speakers of truth.

All three came with differing matters, but the agenda was one and the same: so that a free press would be ensured for all nations. In her closing sentence, Shirin Ebadi urged those of the audience, “Consider our Iranian reporters as family—members of the international community of journalists—and work to promote their freedom. Only until we accept one another as family can we achieve true democratic reporting.”

 

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