A salute to Palestinian journalists
Published Thursday 03/05/2012 (updated) 04/05/2012 09:50
US envoy Daniel Rubinstein speaks at the US Consulate in Jerusalem's annual
Independence Day reception (MaanImages/George Hale, File)
On World Press Freedom Day we celebrate the principles of press freedom and remember those who have fought to preserve them.
We also pay tribute to courageous and responsible journalists worldwide and the contributions they make each day to promote the development of civil societies and democracies across the globe.
In the past year, the world again witnessed the importance of a free press. Throughout the Middle East and North Africa, journalists, bloggers, and filmmakers chronicled the protests sweeping the region, while some citizens armed with nothing but cell phones risked their lives to upload the truth -- by text, tweet, and pixel.
A free press is essential to an empowered citizenry, government accountability and responsible economic development. I think President Barack Obama said it best: "The more freely information flows, the stronger the society becomes".
The US is committed to preserving the Internet and other connective technologies as platforms where people can freely interact, collaborate, and debate issues that are important to them.
As US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in December 2011, “When ideas are blocked, information deleted, conversations stifled, and people constrained in their choices, the internet is diminished for all of us.”
In the United States we take great pride in press freedom, but our history is replete with struggles to advance these rights.
It was not long ago that the US government and The New York Times were embroiled in a court case over the release of the Vietnam-era Pentagon papers. And there are ongoing cases today pitting the public’s right to know against the need to protect national security information.
Even today, Americans continue to vigorously debate how to balance freedom of the press and freedom of expression with other societal obligations.
At the same time, we cannot lose sight of certain universal principles. As Albert Camus once said, “A free press can be good or bad, but, most certainly, without freedom a press will never be anything but bad.”
It is for this reason that the US has been honest with its friends when we believe these principles are not being upheld. Last week, we made clear our concern regarding some recent actions by the Palestinian Authority.
We are similarly candid with the Israeli government regarding issues related to freedom of the press.
And each year, in our annual report on human rights, we document the many restrictions on journalists in Gaza at the hands of Hamas.
As Secretary Clinton said, journalists safeguard freedoms "by exposing abuses of power, challenging assumptions, and providing constructive outlets for new ideas and for dissent.”
To journalists, I salute you today on the important role you play, through your responsible and accurate reporting, in strengthening the institutions of a future Palestinian state.
We know you face many challenges in doing your jobs. But, I urge you not to give up hope and to continue your tireless efforts to promote press freedom in your communities, the Palestinian territories and around the world.
Daniel Rubinstein is the consul general of the United States in Jerusalem. Adapted from remarks delivered Thursday in Ramallah.