November 28, 2012
Truth is as hard as a diamond, Gandhi said. Dictators fear truth and reality because
they shine like a powerful light in the dark. Any deviation from their propaganda
threatens their political constructs. Any description of the facts can undermine
the oppressive edifice they have built and expose their house of lies, in which the
ballrooms rest on the cellars in which they try to confine the people.
Between 60 and 100 journalists and as many netizens are killed worldwide each
year and, at the time of writing, 155 journalists and 130 netizens are in prison. This
is because truth, as Gandhi added, is also as fragile as a peach blossom. With the help
of jails, laws, scissors and technologicial tools, truth and reality are easily crushed
like petals under a military heel.
Only determined opposition to censorship will permit political, economic and
social progress in countries throughout the world. Journalists and bloggers were
persecuted in China in 2008 for trying to point out that a popular baby formula was
tainted. As a result, hundreds of thousands of babies suffered for the sake of the
country’s image in the short term.
In February 2012 spurious grounds were used in Russia to suppress some reports
about AIDS. In Cuba a reporter for the
party newspaper Granma was given a 14-year jail sentence at a secret hearing last
summer for doing his job better than his colleagues.
Reporters Without Borders has been fighting for more than 25 years so that people
are not prevented from saying “two plus two equals four,” as George Orwell put it
in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Fortunately, freedom has heroes who resist at all cost. Chinese dissidents,
bloggers in Iran and Cuba, journalists in Africa and Central Asia make up a planetary
army whose only arms are their computers, their cameras and sometimes just their
But their courage is not always enough to pierce the great walls of censorship. This
is why Reporters Without Borders has decided to provide them with a website,
WeFightCensorship, for posting content that has been censored or banned or has
given rise to reprisals against the content creator.
A deterrent based on what is called the “Streisand effect,” WeFightCensorship aims
to make censorship obsolete, to show that jailing a content creator, seizing copies of
a newspaper or blocking acess to a video website will not prevent the content from
going around the world and, on the contrary, will just encourage its dissemination.
The message is clear for every kind of despot: The more you tried to suppress the
truth, the more WeFightCensorship and its mirror sites will ensure that it circulates.
Only real freedom of information allows us to verify that the other freedoms are
being respected. Only freedom of information allows diverging interests to be
expressed — democracy — and prevents certain segments of society or entire
human groups from being forgotten. Amartya Sen, a winner of the Nobel Prize in
Economics, said that famines only happen when the people concerned are unable to
express their needs.
To report news and information is to fight for a vision of humanity, for the principle
that human beings have the right not to be crushed by propaganda. The Homo
sapiens in Plato’s cave evolve into modern human beings when they are no longer satisfied
with the shadows. Nearly one half of humankind still lacks access to freely reported
news and information at the start of the 21st century. Deprived of the basic lucidity
needed to run their lives, dependent like children who are told fairy tales, billions of
people are stripped of their existence.
Under a regime of propaganda, lies and concealment, whether brutal or soft, you can
at best walk, but you are not free to choose the road you take. You think you have
emerged from the cave, but you have entered a tunel. WeFightCensorship is now
showing the way out.