Friday, July 8, 2011
Freedom of the Press and Democracy
The French author, 94 years old and a resistance fighter during the Second World War, tells the young, "Just look around, and you will see what is not to be endured. The worst kind of attitude is indifference, 'What can I do? I have my work to do,'" you say. "With that kind of thinking the strength that comes with outrage is lost--one of the qualities that makes us human--and we miss the opportunity to bring about change."
The first object of our anger, he says, should be the gulf that separates the rich from the poor. The second object of our anger should be the present threat to welfare programs for the powerless in society, and concerns in maintaining an independent press among other issues--all of which have to be seen if we are to make judgements and move into action.
The author of the book participated in drawing up the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. When we are angry at the violations of human rights wherever they occur, he believes we will also attain rights and freedoms for ourselves. And his recommendation to cease from violence is to have non-violent, peaceful demonstrations.
The journalist briefly reviews the struggles for change in Korea, especially the recent candle-light processions of college student asking for an unconditional decrease in college tuition. They were joined by workers, parents, and by high school students. He remembers his own struggle for a free press 37 years ago when the journalists of his own paper confronted the government of Park Chung-hee. When the journalists issued their call for a free press, all the advertising disappeared. In the place of the advertising, the blank spaces were filled with the angry words of the readers, offering consolation and encouragement to the protesters, and also donations.
This could have continued but the shareholders of the paper and radio station decided against the protesters and fired 134 employees of the paper, including journalists, producers, and announcers. Our journalist was one of those fired. The advertising income returned, the number of pages of the paper increased but the freedom of the press died.
The freedom of the press, he concludes, is the foundation of a true democracy--freedom from power, moneyed interests, and the influence of big business. He ends with the words of Isaiah (10:1-4): "Woe to those who enact unjust statues and who write oppressive decrees, depriving the needy of judgement and robbing my people's poor of their rights...."