Thousands of citizens practice silence every day around the world. Despite the fact that freedom of expression is a right included in the Universal Declaration of Human RightsThe truth is that in societies like China, Iran or Vietnam it is a sham. However, these three we already knew.
For years, freedom of expression has been submerged in a volcano that erupts from time to time. In some countries like Spain it seems that it has been established, although there are many detractors who claim that it is a freedom manipulated by power. In others, like Russia or the Philippines, it seems they don’t even know it. This may be the reason why the winners of the Nobel Prize of Peace 2021 are two journalists from countries where there is incessant censorship of the media.
We refer to Maria ressa, journalist in the Philippines, and Dmitry Muratov, Russian journalist and television presenter, two communication professionals who feel that their lives are in danger every time they try to impart a bit of political and social justice in their country. The Nobel Peace Prize is just a small tribute to all those who fight to establish freedom of expression in countries where it is provided with censorship and is punished with the truth.
Analyzing the censorship What governments do in countries such as Iran, China, the Philippines or Russia, a slight difference can be observed. While in countries such as Iran or China they invent systems that allow controlling access to information, thus limiting the freedom of citizens, in others such as the Philippines or Russia they do not even need it, because it is not directly considered to exist.
Putin’s democratic era was always a sham
In the case of the Philippines, the fear of giving an opinion, criticizing or denouncing an event eliminates any attempt to give voice to what is happening in the country: “There are people with a lot of power from whom you cannot get dirty laundry, although have and are known to the whole world. There are also sects that you cannot talk about, because people are afraid to talk about them, ”says Bacefi Ozawa, a resident of the Philippines since 2019.
Meanwhile, in Russia “the Pressure of the Government on foreign journalists has been growing over the years, but that suffered by Russian communicators themselves is much greater ”, he says. Xavier Colas, current correspondent for El Mundo in Russia.
A walk through the history of censored Russia
Daniel Utrilla He has been a correspondent in Russia for 11 years (2000-2011) for the newspaper El Mundo and a writer based in Moscow. The writer, because now that is his great passion and profession, explains that the arrival of the Russian “restructuring” derived from Glasnost, inaugurated by former President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985, marked a before and after in journalism, since until that moment “the Soviet news scene had been completely monochrome and monotone,” says Utrilla.
Glasnost led to a weakening of censorship and the removal of multiple informational barriers that characterized journalism in the Soviet Union (USSR). Utrilla recalls how the reform also allowed the return of censored books, and until now prohibited, and the declassification and disclosure of secret files. The first free elections and the opposition political parties arrived in Russia, something unthinkable until now.
Exactly 30 years ago the USSR fell, in the same way that information reached the country: in one fell swoop. “The nascent freedom of the press was impregnated with the same disorder, chaos and violence that debased all areas of post-Soviet Russian society, ”recalls Utrilla. Although it seemed that a new era in freedom of expression was about to begin, the reality is that it never came. In fact, many journalists were commissioned killings in the 1990s for their publications. This new “democratic Russia” was a sham. Economic and social criminality was spreading without ceasing. When Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000, one of his first feats was to snatch from society that media speaker that had been granted to him 10 years ago, and Putin began to control all the media.
However, the murders of journalists did not stop, says Utrilla: “Among the most notorious cases is that of Yuri Shchekochikhin, a journalist investigating corruption schemes who died in 2003, allegedly poisoned; but above all that of Anna Politkovskaya, another well-known journalist in the West who was shot in 2006 in her front door while investigating kidnappings and murders of journalists and activists in Chechnya ”.
Journalists in the Philippines should stop being afraid and write about certain things
20 years have passed since Putin has the power of Russia, and public sources are still very inaccessible, something totally unthinkable in Spain, where, only by right, you can access them in search of any type of information. Speaking of the present, Colas says that from Madrid they ask him for statements from Russian citizens, but “there are hardly any”, he regrets. “Civil society is weaker,” he concludes.
The famous blacklists of journalists also play a fundamental role in countries like Russia. Along these lines, the fines and pressure exerted by the Government on communication companies, a force that in turn practices on journalists, is the most common way of acting for leaders. However, Colas, who speaks from his perspective and particular situation, points out that his relationship with the Russian government is not bad. Although he admits that journalists are frequently singled out in countries like Ukraine, he also points out that he prefers not to talk about the particular cases of other censored journalists, not even his own.
The Philippines, the freest press in Asia?
Besides being a witch hunt, journalism in the Philippines is little more than a risk profession. Alice Herrera is a journalist in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, and ensures that her profession “is very dangerous.” In contrast, and although it may seem a huge incongruity, the professional defends that “the Philippines is known for having the freest press in Asia.”
Ferdinand Marcos was a Philippine dictator who was in power for no less than 20 years (1965-1986). Focusing on a purely journalistic context, the country is especially known for the imposition of Martial Law. Although Martial Law is officially a military statute applicable only in exceptional situations and specially designed to quell wars and rebellions, the truth is that in the Philippines it served to censor freedom of expression from the media: “In Ferdinand Marcos’s time there were army officers assigned to all editorial offices who reviewed all stories to make sure only approved stories were published. The officers ended up abandoning the newspapers, but the journalists knew that if they wrote something outside of the editorial line that the government demanded, they would come back, ”says Herrera.
During the time, many journalists were arrested and detained. Herrera points out that “now the censorship is less official”, that is to say, there is not officially a military commander, as in the past, who condemns the publications and tells you what information you can disclose and what not. However, there are economic threats: “If the wrong person is upset, such as a government official, the government will pursue the business interests of the publisher or owner of the newspaper, as happened to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.”
The political forces of the Philippines are controlled by families who have a lot of power
ABS-CBN television station has had its franchise canceled for a long time. Despite the fact that the leaders deny this type of accusation, the truth is that among the citizens of the country it is an open secret. Currently, defamation laws are imposed in the Philippines. The best known is the one that acts on “cybercrime”. María Ressa had to face an accusation of “cyber defamation” approximately a year ago, in which she was finally declared guilty. Now, she is considered a “criminal”. This type of complaint is often only used to threaten, intimidate or inconvenience to journalists, Herrera explains, since they can end up in jail.
3 million euros fine
The Filipina explains that, in her specific case, the danger does not adhere to her profession, since she currently works in an economic environment in Manila and the content she writes is related to lifestyle, although now she is also the editor-in-chief of a opinion column, where you find more publishing problems. The advantage of this type of content is that it is not controversial, so it is “safe”. However, his media outlet has recently been involved in a legal dispute due to an article that accused a government official. Just for each publication, the Philippine justice demands for each reporter and editor involved 200 million pesos (approximately three million euros).
As a result of what happened, now the journalistic situation is much more tense: “The newspaper has already told us to be careful what we write about the case and about the history of which we are accused. We have also been told not to post content about the situation on our social media accounts to prevent them from alleging malice. But even before this, we were careful what we wrote. ” In general, the modus operandi of the Government is to indicate to the media about which people and companies can write criticisms and about which not.
Meanwhile, citizens like Bacefi believe that “journalists should stop being afraid and write about certain things,” but they also admit that you have to be in a position to appreciate what is happening. In fact, the citizen values that something similar happens in Spain, although not at the same level: “The political forces in the Philippines are controlled by families that have a lot of power, and those families are the ones who run the media, but that also happens. in Spain, and that is why independent journalists don’t dare to talk about anything ”. Either way, Bacefi admits that “the profession is screwed up.”
Finally, remember that this is “the freest press in Asia”. And to top it all, we can now understand a little better why it is necessary for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner to fight for freedom of expression and the elimination of censorship, which in many cases leads professionals to death.
We wish to thank the writer of this short article for this outstanding material
Nobel Prize for Journalism (3): Two sides of the same coin – cuv3. The digital of the FCOM of Villanueva CU