The War Against Free Speech

journalistWhen most people see the words “police state” they think of Nazi Germany, or maybe some of the current African states, or possibly Niger:

From OneWorld.Net: U.S. Reporter Arrested Covering Nigeria Oil Story “An award-winning U.S. journalist covering ‘the economic and ecological disaster’ taking shape in a strategic oil-producing region of Nigeria was arrested this week on spying charges…”

Journalists (especially those covering abuse of rights by the police) have recently experienced the dreadful repercussions of police-state-mentality in the United States of America:

From OneWorld.Net: RNC: Media Intimidation Condemned “Police and local and federal officials in St. Paul, Minnesota are under fire from independent media groups for their crackdown on reporters at this week’s Republican National Convention.”

The last news link has some extremely interesting but possibly nerve-wracking videos showing abuse of journalists’ rights.

The quote below has these words, “…masses of people unable to exercise the functions of citizenship…”. When journalists are treated in repressive ways and arrested in the course of their duties, citizens are deprived of information critically necessary for competent discharge of their duty.

Today’s Spiritual Quote:

“An equal standard of human rights must be upheld, and individuals given equal opportunities. Variety and not uniformity is the principle of organic society. Since lack of opportunity, repression and degrading conditions have created masses of people unable to exercise the functions of citizenship, such persons are a moral trust laid upon the conscience of the rest, to educate the ignorant, train the immature and heal the sick.”
Bahá’í International Community, 1947 Feb, A Bahá’í Declaration of Human Obligations and Rights

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A Woman’s Bravery . . .

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Bushra Jamil

Winner of the Ida B. Wells Award
for Bravery in Journalism

Women’s e-News Video of the Presentation

From the OneWorld.Net story From Baghdad With Love:

“Former teacher Bushra Jamil returned to Iraq in 2003 to start the country’s first progressive radio station for women, which has flourished over the years despite the constant threat of violence and government opposition.


• Radio Al-Mahaba is the first radio station in Iraq designed for and by women.
• The station is credited with reaching out to and connecting women from all walks of life.
• Jamil has been commended with several congressional and journalism awards for her efforts.

“In Baghdad right now, refrigerators, electric stoves, heaters, air conditioners, televisions, and computers operate for one or two hours on a good day. There are plenty of days when it isn’t safe to go outside to shop or work or visit neighbors. And even when there’s light to read, Iraqi sources estimate that as many as 75% of women in Iraq are illiterate—a rate that has grown steadily over the past 10 years of warfare and civil strife. Here and in the rest of Iraq, people count on transistor radios for news and entertainment, to lift their spirits and to let them know what’s happening in the world….

“The station sees its mission as ‘contributing to the establishment of a secular democratic society where all are equally treated and their rights are protected by law… and as joining Iraqis with love, kinship, commitment, respect, and most important, cumulative knowledge.’ In an NPR interview, Jamil gave one small example of how that works in practice. ‘On our legal program, a woman called crying because her husband beat her. She had children and no job, and didn’t know how she could get by without him.’ The next caller and the one after that both asked the host to pass their numbers on to the first, so they could share experience and support.”

A Journalist from Darfur… {reprint}

This is Awatif Ahmed Isshag.

She’s been a journalist for the last ten years.

She lives in Darfur.

When events like the ongoing crisis in Darfur come to the attention of relatively secure people like me (resident of the USA, not starving, and not seeing death and destruction every day), we feel particularly helpless.

It’s going to take more than the combined efforts of all the aid organizations there are to help people in that country [not to mention the horrible happenings in other countries].

It’s going to take a massive change of heart–massive change for each individual who could help in any way and massive change for every government and political person who has any influence on secular happenings–a thorough spiritual transformation.

Can you hear it?

The world is crying, screaming for change…

The Dynamist Blog carried a short article about Awatif Ahmed Isshag. Here’s just a taste:

“Nearly a decade ago, at 14, Isshag started publishing a handwritten community newsletter about local events, arts and religion. Once a month she’d paste decorated pages to a large piece of wood and hang it from a tree outside her family’s home for passersby to read.

“Her grass-roots periodical has become the closest thing that El Fasher, capital of North Darfur state, has to a hometown newspaper. More than 100 people a day stop to check out her latest installments, some walking several miles from nearby displacement camps….

“Isshag complained that despite international attention, the suffering of Darfur remained vastly underreported inside Sudan. There are no television stations in the area, and most newspapers operate under government control or are based hundreds of miles away in Khartoum.

“‘The local media don’t cover the issue of Darfur,’ she said. ‘We hear about it when one child dies in Iraq, but we hear nothing when 50 children die’ in Darfur.”

She is, in a way, blogging without a computer.

If you need some background on the bigger picture, the BBC News has Darfur: Little hope five years on and Wikipedia has Darfur Conflict.

A more complete story on Awatif Ahmed Isshag is archived at the Los Angeles Times. Here’s a telling detail from that article:

“An advocate for women’s education, Isshag credits her parents for allowing her to avoid being tied down by housework and pursue her interest in writing.

“But she occasionally uses her columns to lecture other women on pet peeves. A recent ‘For Women Only’ article lambasted those who took off their shoes on the bus. ‘It’s wrong,’ she said with a laugh.”