As Alan Johnston’s four weeks in captivity in Gaza strip failed to show any trace of him, the question related to safety of journalists in troubled spots of the world has resurfaced. Johnston represented BBC in Palestine and his kidnapping on March 12, 2007, has been one among the series of crimes in the region, where the journalists have been at the receiving end of cruelty. Without doubt, West Asia has witnessed crimes against journalists more often. Ironically, it has not been the notorious third world dictatorship or the Islamic militias that have caused most of these crimes against journalists, but, in fact, countries from the so-called liberal Western world. And how’s that?
Of high interest is the stunning accusation by the most respected Paris-based organisation, ‘Reporters Without Borders’, that accused United States of perpetrating war crimes in Iraq by deliberately targetting journalists that are not in their good books. In the process, the organisation contends, investigations must be carried out to determine whether or not Americans are violating the international humanitarian law, and especially the Geneva Convention. If that accusation sounded shocking, the US government’s cup of shame ran over when the International Federation of Journalists seconded the above opinion calling for an independent enquiry against the concerted American attack on the Al-Jazeera and Abu-Dhabi Television channels.
Adding to this ignominy of US perfidy is the planned and well coordinated attack by an American tank on the 14th floor of the Baghdad-based Palestine hotel that housed several journalists who dared to report the anti-US side of the story. Even though the Americans were quick to issue a denial for the same (claiming the attack was in retaliation), the video footage provided by the French television channel, France 3, clearly showed that the American attack came without provocation. Journalists from the area have noted that the Palestine hotel’s 14th floor was attacked when the neighbourhood was quiet; in fact, the American tank took its own sweet time in targetting the hotel.
Compare this to the American hypocrisy in claiming itself to be the defender of the free world. In its efforts to emerge as the champion of free press, American criticism of the alleged muzzling of free media in Cuba, Russia and Latin America has been high pitched and consistent. One would remember that when the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and beheaded in Pakistan in early 2002, the US coolly washed its hands off the crime of its (then) staunch ally Pakistan. Pathetically, General Musharraf got so audacious that he boasted to global media that the beheading of Daniel Pearl was the “consequence of his excessive eagerness in knowing things he shouldn’t have known.”
The freedom of press concomitantly flows from the Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The article notes that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media.”. As of today, that freedom is being manipulated, cajoled, pressurised and even crushed by the ruling elite of the world. And that declaration definitely stands emaciated at best.