Freedom of the press is one of the principal foundations of democracy, the political system which is best placed to achieve and maintain the prosperity and peace which is the legitimate aspiration of all human beings.
Freedom of the press is today, more than ever, recognised as a fundamental precondition of durable economic, political, social and cultural progress and stability and as a powerful ally in the global fight against poverty, disease, corruption, ignorance and illiteracy – scourges which affect all our lives, whether we live in industrialised, developed nations or in the poorer countries of the world.
Freedom of the press pays, whichever way you look at it.
And yet the press and the people who work for it, all over the world, continue to be the victims. In dozens of countries, almost on a daily basis, journalists, editors and publishers are murdered, assaulted, detained and harassed, as their publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down.
The release of journalists, of all political prisoners, is a fundamental issue facing Myanmar today. There can be no reconciliation without it. No new social contract between the people of Myanmar and the government can be realised unless this process is complete.
Journalists tell the story and shine a light in the darkest of places. Imagine if they didn’t? So, we need to shine the torch for them now as they have shown a non-violent approach, strength, courage, endurance and rugged determination, usually under poor conditions in a Myanmar prison, all because of the belief in their profession.
Fortunately things are changing in Myanmar and the recent release of large numbers of political prisoners, journalists included, is roundly applauded. It takes a lot of courage too, to release these prisoners, to confront the ideology you once encompassed and to ultimately jettison it, which appears to be the current policy.
Humanity is changing and so is the fabric of Myanmar. We can hold belief that the world is becoming a better place.
The Dalai Lama on World Press Freedom Day in 2003 said: “There is basic humanity, gentleness and human compassion in the world. When there is a problem, a crisis, the media must show that there is an alternative, there is a method, there is potential. Give people confidence that they can change, that they can do better.
“The ultimate goals of the media should not be political or financial, but human. We should aim for a better world, a happier world with people trying to be friendly, compassionate and peaceful. Here I think media have a responsibility. But this does not only concern media, it concerns every field.”