30 October 2004

Freedom of speech?

Reporters Without Borders announced its third annual world-wide index of press freedom recently. RWB compiled it by asking its partner organisations (14 freedom of expression organisations in five continents), its 130 correspondents around the world, as well as journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists to answer 52 questions to indicate the state of press freedom in 167 countries.

And where is Australia in the list? Read on.

"Press freedom is threatened most in East Asia (with North Korea at the bottom of the entire list at 167th place, followed by Burma 165th, China 162nd, Vietnam 161st and Laos 153rd) and the Middle East (Saudi Arabia 159th, Iran 158th, Syria 155th, Iraq 148th). In these countries, an independent media either does not exist or journalists are persecuted and censored on a daily basis. Freedom of information and the safety of journalists are not guaranteed there. Continuing war has made Iraq the most deadly place on earth for journalists in recent years, with 44 killed there since fighting began in March last year.

"The greatest press freedom is found in northern Europe (Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Iceland, the Netherlands and Norway), which is a haven of peace for journalists. Of the top 20 countries, only three (New Zealand 9th, Trinidad and Tobago 11th and Canada 18th) are outside Europe."

More at: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=117
And where's Australia? In 41st place. Hey. How disgusting.
The UK's 22nd and the USA, 28th; South Africa, 26th.

I really think this matter of the freedom of expression is a big issue for poets. The more poets compromise or fail to "think", the more they write from a position of irrelevant weakness that makes the craft just that, craft. We've seen it in prose, the proliferation of novels about "middle-class seduction in suburbia". The cult of the beautiful in poetry leads the same way, to the half-strength. Back to Keats: beauty is truth ... and truth, beauty ...

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