I don't know whether it was my upbringing or 25 years of working in libraries or just wanting to be assured of some protection for what I might write but for whatever reason, it's usually not far from my mind. It might even be from my early exposure to being censored -- in grade 6 I was part of the editorial team for the school paper and one issue contained a section ("seen in passing" I think) that would barely pass for the tamest version of Overheard in x today but which our principal felt was gossip and possibly libelous. He was not amused and charged us with actually cutting the section out of every copy that had been run off on the Gestetner by our teacher the evening before. Of course that meant that every issue sold for that run -- another interesting lesson for an 11 year old to learn. (As an adult, I wonder whether our teacher was disciplined for not talking to us about it or just editing the content before printing.)
Most recently, I've been watching the case against Jason Chen (who reported on the Apple prototype that was bought by Gizmodo/Gawker Media and whose home was later raided). I firmly believe that, while criminal charges might be appropriate, they should be targeting the person who signed the cheque and bought the lost/stolen prototype and/or the engineer who let it get away rather than the reporter doing his job.
On the global scene, Reporters Without Borders tracks infractions* and reports on the state of press freedom each year. In 2009, Canada registers at 19th of 175 nations (way down from 7th in 2002) but doesn't come close to the big offenders.
May 3rd is World Press Freedom Day, as declared by the UN, a day to "celebrate the fundamental principles of press and media freedom that are articulated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
Go read (or watch) some award-winning journalism and ponder what we stand to lose:
- Mohammed Omer, 2007 recipient of the Martha Gellhorn Prize, writing from Gaza for the Inter Press News Service.
- Cecelia Dugger and Barry Bearak, winners of many awards, largely for their coverage of social unrest in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Some articles: Anti-immigrant violence rages in South Africa, Complex ties led ally not to condemn Mugabe
- A UBC Journalism class has won a top journalism prize for their documentary, Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground (view clips here)
- The Investigation into that Missing iPhone from Gizmodo
- What is Apple Inc.'s Role in Task Force... on Yahoo News
- Apple vs. Gizmodo from LA Times
- ...Apple's Dangerous Game on Conceivably Tech
*From the Reporters Without Borders press release on the survey used to rank countries, "It includes every kind of violation directly affecting journalists (such as murders, imprisonment, physical attacks and threats) and news media (censorship, confiscation of newspaper issues, searches and harassment). And it includes the degree of impunity enjoyed by those responsible for these press freedom violations.
It also measures the level of self-censorship in each country and the ability of the media to investigate and criticise. Financial pressure, which is increasingly common, is also assessed and incorporated into the final score."