DRAFT: Open Letter to UNESCO on World Press Freedom Nomination

Posted on 15/01/2011 by

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This is a draft of the letter I will send off to UNESCO. Comments and ideas are welcome! I will send off the final version shortly before 15 February.

Version 1.1 — Thank you Mirjam! (update: 16-01-2011)

I begin this nomination with a confession. I am not a Member State of UNESCO. Nor am I a regional or international organisation. I am definitely not part of a professional and non-governmental organisations working in the field of journalism and freedom of expression. Rather, I am an individual, outside of any institution, organisation, or government.

What I write has validity, however, even though nominations for the Prize exclude solitary individuals by complete omission. Indeed, I think I may be so bold as to say I am backed by the opinions of many thousands of people across the world. I do not speak for them, but with them; I can only hope you are listening.

Freedom of the press rests upon a greater freedom, the freedom of speech. One is the bedrock of the other; the press puts into durable form that which is, or at least can be, spoken aloud. I think one can go so far as to say, there is no free press, when speech is oppressed.

Which brings to mind questions of exactly why UNESCO decided to allow the US to host World Press Freedom Day. Very recently indeed, the US has seen many of its politicians baying for the mysteriously charges-free conviction of two people, and the shutting down of a widely-recognised whistle-blowing organisation.

What does it mean to be a whistle-blower? These two people, Julian Assange and Pfc Bradley Manning, could give you answers, if it were possible for them to do so. But they needn’t, I think, because you already know what it entails to work against corrupt and despotic governments. You know what is done to those journalists and organisations which seek to reveal such corruption; you are well aware that such governments allow nothing to stand in the way of their continued control.

As I said, you know all this. You also know that the organisation I mentioned is WikiLeaks. Now, I could go into why the UNESCO Prize should go to Pfc Manning, Mr Assange, and WikiLeaks, but you already know why that should be done. What has been done by WikiLeaks and these two men stands for itself, and no words of mine could elaborate further.

In the name of freedom of expression and information, you have an obligation to stand for what you say you believe in. Your obligation is to award the World Press Freedom Prize to Pfc Manning, Mr Assange, and WikiLeaks. I need not say anything more as to why.

If you should not do so, then you will show UNESCO stands for nothing in the way of freedom of the press. You will show that UNESCO supports the freedom of the US government to dictate what can and cannot be spoken about. The UNESCO World Press Freedom Day being hosted by the US government puts the Prize, and what it really stands for, in question. If the Prize does not go to those who did the most to reveal corruption and despotism in the US government, then UNESCO and the Prize are merely part of that corruption.

In closing, having World Press Freedom Day held in the US is a golden opportunity. This is the chance for UNESCO to assert that freedom of the press is of paramount importance. Now, more than ever, that freedom is needing assertion; if the Prize is not awarded in such a way as to make this clear, UNESCO has no right to speak of what freedom is.

Best regards,

–Andrew McInnes

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