A free press can prevent tragedies

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A free press can prevent tragedies

It is a privilege and an honor to be awarded your annual Golden Pen of Freedom award. It is more gratifying because it comes from bodies dedicated to the protection of freedom of expression.
We in Sudan, like all journalists in the world working under undemocratic conditions, have been subjected to all types of harassment. Maintaining media independence, integrity and credibility in the face of repressive laws has always been an uphill battle. During my over half a century of working in this profession, I have experienced all types of constraints and harassments, including censorship, confiscation, closure, nationalization and imprisonment.
Nothing kept us going except commitment to the profession and dedicated loyalty to its ideas. Other colleagues elsewhere in the world suffered even more ― they sacrificed their lives and faced their fate with courage and determination. During the past decade alone, 500 journalists were murdered in the line of duty, and in most of these cases, their murderers enjoyed impunity and were never brought to justice. We owe it to those fallen martyrs to do whatever we can to carry on the battle for freedom of expression to its victorious end and institute full protection to all members of this profession. We are glad that their sacrifices have not been in vain as transition to democracy is on the ascendancy everywhere in the world. It is time to work with perseverance and commitment to achieve final victory.
You may be aware that Sudan has recently signed a peace accord that brought to an end Africa’s longest civil war that over two decades claimed over two million lives and displaced four million people. We are at the moment negotiating yet another peace agreement, which will hopefully end the tragic armed conflict in the Darfur region of Western Sudan. In addition to that we have embarked on a constitutional democratic transformation process. Both local and international media should feel proud of this achievement. Had it not been for its concerted effort to uncover and publicize the facts of this tragic conflict peace could not have been achieved. Resistant and courageous efforts of journalists all over the world exposed and publicized the atrocities of the war and mobilized world public opinion to press for peace.
This underlines the importance of independent and committed journalism. I cannot help feeling that had the press been free in exposing these atrocities from the beginning of the conflict, peace would have been achieved years back and a lot of tragic miseries could have been avoided.

* Editor in Chief Al-Ayam, Sudan Winner of 2005 Golden Pen Award

by Mahjoub Mohamed Salih
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