‘No power on earth must sabotage right to freedom of expression’

May 3 is World Press Freedom Day

Vishü Rita Krocha
Kohima | May 2

 While the right to freedom of expression may not be directly relevant to other professions as it is to the press and media, K Temjen Jamir, Editor of Tir Yimyim maintained that regardless, “everyone is beneficiary of this fundamental right to freedom of expression.”

Speaking to The Morung Express on the eve of World Press Freedom Day that falls on May 3, he emphasized that, “after all, someone must be there to speak not only for themselves but for others too, for their rights and no power on earth must prevent, sabotage and threaten this right of rights to freedoms of expression, thought, grievances, concern, complaint and ideas.”

This year, the World Press Freedom Day, also marking its 30th anniversary, is being held under the theme, “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of Expression as a driver for all other human rights”. It is also “a call to recentre press freedom as well as independent, pluralistic and diverse media, as necessary key to the enjoyment of all other human rights.”

In the local Naga context, Jamir underscored that “customary laws that are being practiced today in villages must give more liberty and freedom to its citizens to express their interest and make political decisions without any imposition as their rights as citizens.”

Highlighting that this would bring freedom closer to us, he pointed out that “this is one area where shaping a future for freedom of expression as a right is needed in Nagaland.” He further maintained that this year’s theme for World Press Freedom Day is a reminder that the right to freedom of expression is guaranteed to all global citizens but that, it “has made the press and media more responsible in exercising this fundamental right without fear and favour so that people enjoy their rights and get the benefits of democracy.”
‘Biggest threat to media is from the state’ 
Senior Journalist & President of Nagaland Press Association (NPA), H Chishi also expressed concern that the Press and Media is still under threat from various sectors including the government despite the Freedom of Speech and Expression being a fundamental Human Right, enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Stating that the media comes under threat when it tries to question the role of the government with regard to transparency and accountability in governance, Chishi pointed out that, “the biggest threat to media/press today is from the state.” “Similar threat comes from various organisations and individuals too and Nagaland is no exception to this situation”, he said.

With regard to ‘Shaping a Future of Rights’, K Temjen Jamir, in the meantime, underlined that “journalists in particular and people in general must be empowered with legal safeguards so that they perform their rightful duties and express their minds without any legal and political hindrance.”

“In shaping a future of rights to freedom of expression, laws of the land should not be a deterrent to express and reveal the truth, be it the society or the government”, he said.

 ‘Is essential for a free and open society’
Maintaining that freedom of expression along with freedom of opinion is particularly important for the press as it allows journalists and media outlets to report on issues of public interest and to hold those in power accountable, Editor of Mokokchung Times, Limalenden Longkumer underscored that “it is a fundamental human right that is essential for a free and open society.”

As such, he held that any attempt to curtail this right must be opposed while elucidating that at the same time, the press should remain true to itself. In the context of Nagaland, he underlined that, “the need for an open and adequate dialogue on the freedom of expression (of the press), the constraints and impediments, and how they affect society need to be urgently addressed.”

Stating that freedom of expression “ensures transparency and accountability, promotes a free and open society, fosters informed public debate, and protects against censorship and propaganda”, he also pointed out that it does not mean inciting lawlessness or hate speech.

The press, he advocated should exercise its rights and duties responsibly while elaborating that “it carries with it special responsibilities, and may be restricted on several grounds.” “In that sense, the right to freedom of expression is not absolute”, he pointed out.

Reiterating that freedom of expression is a fundamental human right that is essential for the functioning of a democratic society, he highlighted that, “it is also a right in itself as well as a liberty. It is an indispensable condition for the full development of the individual.”