By Alejandro A. Tagliavini *
We humans do not really believe in freedom, we say yes … but with limits which are those each one desires and that we justify with “reasonable” arguments, the most used being that “freedom cannot be absolute “. Byzantine discussion.
Indeed, in real life freedom is not absolute, nobody can do everything wanted, cannot for example throw itself from a building and pretend to fly like a bird. But freedom being not absolute does not entitle anyone to put “reasonable” limits on them and force them with violence be it personal, police or military.
Two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, spent a year and a half in jail for violating the law on official secrets when investigating a massive killing of Rohingyas by the military in Burma, investigation that earned them the Pulitzer. Sentenced to 7 years, they left prison thanks to an amnesty that benefited 6520 prisoners.
Everything very “legal”, at the discretion of the officials now, so “legal” that the Supreme Court rejected the last appeal of the reporters. Ironically, according to Human Rights Watch, the number of journalists detained grew to 43 since the “very respectable” Aung San Suu Kyi – Nobel Peace Prize winner for defending human rights – took the political leadership of the country, after winning the 2016 elections.
It happens that information is the best solution against violence. When we “defend” ourselves with weapons, we take the risk of getting injured or hurting the innocent. Instead, with enough information we can advance the aggressor and protect ourselves. So, the violent need to control information because violence is only possible with misinformation. For example, nothing can the most powerful army against a kid alone if he has enough information to anticipate himself and escape.
According to a report of Reporters Without Borders – that we could ideologically locate in the center-left – the number of safe countries for journalists decreased in 2019. Many authoritarian governments are strengthening their control over the media.
This ranking of Press Freedom in the world, which includes 180 countries, is headed by Norway, Finland and Sweden. Then, among those who improved is Uruguay today in 19th place, Spain 29, Great Britain 33, Dominican 55, Panama 79, Peru 83, Colombia 129, Mexico 144, Eritrea 178 and North Korea 179.
Among those with no changes are Costa Rica in 10th place and Guatemala in 116th. Finally, among those who are worsening is Chile in 46th place, USA 48, Argentina 57, Ecuador 97, Brazil 105, Bolivia 113, Nicaragua 114, Honduras 146, Venezuela 148, China 177, and last on the list, Turkmenistan 180.
Now comparing this ranking with the Economic Freedom report of the conservative The Heritage Foundation we see that, considering the ideological gap, both have a remarkable degree of coincidence: in general, the countries with greater “economic freedom” enjoy more “press freedom”. Which is logical, since “both liberties” are intimately related -in fact, it’s the same freedom- since to coerce both the same direct state violent force is needed, or indirect as in countries where some very harmful drugs are banned by the State and so emerging drug gangs kill journalists, as in Mexico.
* Member of the Advisory Board of the Center on Global Prosperity, Oakland, California