Sunday, May 01, 2005

The International Federation of Journalists lives in a world of its own

Well, actually, it lives in Brussels, which has not exactly enabled it to protect one of its own, Hans-Martin Tillack. Presumably, having made all sorts of statements, it did not really want to fall out either with the Belgian government or the European Commission. The IFJ is, after all, down the road from the Commission, on the Rue de Loi.

On May 3 the IFJ is having a special conference. Apparently the day is World Press Freedom Day. World Press Freedom Day? Exactly how much of the world has a free press?

Africa? Russia? Central Asia? Venezuela? Various Middle Eastern countries? Does the IFJ know what happens to journalists who express the mildest criticism of the Palestinian Authority or of Hamas? Is there a free media in Syria or, for that matter, Belarus?

Apparently yes, because the theme of the conference and the report that it will launch will be: How the War on Terror Puts Pressure on Press Freedom. Right, so it is the wicked West that is at fault again and never mind the attacks on journalists in, say, Putin’s Russia.

The IFJ seems to have been living in a fool’s paradise for some time. How else can one explain the sub-theme of the conference:
‘…the war on terrorism amounts to a devastating challenge to the global culture of human rights and civil liberties established almost 60 years ago…’
Excuse me? Global culture of human rights and civil liberties that has existed for almost 60 years?

Those 60 years saw, among other developments, Stalin’s second purge, the Communist purges in Eastern Europe, the murder of many millions of Chinese under Mao’s regime (and if there is a culture of human rights and civil liberties in China, I must have missed it), the rule of Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam and of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, not to mentionKim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il in North Korea.

Those 60 years saw the devastation of one African state after another to the point where human rights and civil liberties are not words most of the unfortunate people of that Continent can even begin to understand.

Those 60 years saw the rule of the two Assads and of Saddam Hussein, not to mention other tyrants in the Middle East and the Gulf region.

Shall I go on? Well, yes, the last couple of years saw a rapid movement back into autocracy in Russia, temporarily, we hope, in Ukraine, more permanently in Belarus, Moldova, Kazakhstan and all the other stans.

It seems the murder of Gongadze in Ukraine and the near murder of Anna Politkovskaya in Russia (to pluck two cases at random – there are many more) are not a challenge, devastating or otherwise to human rights or civil liberties, as established nearly 60 years ago.

Only the war against terror is. I don’t know about anyone else but I cannot take the IFJ seriously until they at least manage to retrieve Herr Tillack’s notes and documents from the Belgian police as well as silence the OLAF officials who continue to slander him with impunity.

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