Commentary: Not much to celebrate on World Press Freedom Day

This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.

Monday is World Press Freedom Day, but don't expect a party.

According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 125 members of the press are being held in prisons around the world. China, as usual, is leading the pack with 28 behind bars and Cuba is second with 21. At least 11 journalists have been killed worldwide in 2009, and now American reporters in Iran and North Korea have become pawns in international negotiations.

There isn't much to celebrate. Nor is there much mystery about why journalists so often are the targets of bogus accusations like "social dangerousness," a wacky legal concept devised by Cuba's leaders. In countries where tyrants are accustomed to – and demand – public adulation, journalists are the skunk at the picnic, the annoying yet vulnerable figures who dare to say what others won't. Silence the journalist and you silence the truth, or so despots believe.

Fortunately, that is not the case. Dissident journalists in Cuba and so many other countries where press freedom is banned continue to ply their trade courageously, defying the authorities, despite awareness of the danger – because it matters. Every honest reporter who contradicts the official version of the truth weakens the wall of lies that protects corrupt governments. Their example encourages others to do the same.

In some instances, journalists are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. That is the case with American journalist Roxana Saberi, who was convicted of espionage in Iran – a bogus charge – and sentenced to eight years in prison after a one-hour trial in a closed court.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.