Truth is as hard as a diamond, Gandhi said. Dictators fear truth and reality because they shine like a powerful light in the dark. Any deviation from their propaganda threatens their political constructs. Any description of the facts can undermine the oppressive edifice they have built and expose their house of lies, in which the ballrooms rest on the cellars in which they try to confine the people.
Between 60 and 100 journalists and as many netizens are killed worldwide each year and, at the time of writing, 155 journalists and 130 netizens are in prison. This is because truth, as Gandhi added, is also as fragile as a peach blossom. With the help of jails, laws, scissors and technologicial tools, truth and reality are easily crushed like petals under a military heel.
Only determined opposition to censorship will permit political, economic and social progress in countries throughout the world. Journalists and bloggers were persecuted in China in 2008 for trying to point out that a popular baby formula was tainted. As a result, hundreds of thousands of babies suffered for the sake of the country's image in the short term.
In February 2012 spurious grounds were used in Russia to suppress some reports about AIDS. In Cuba a reporter for the party newspaper Granma was given a 14-year jail sentence at a secret hearing last summer for doing his job better than his colleagues.
Reporters Without Borders has been fighting for more than 25 years so that people are not prevented from saying "two plus two equals four," as George Orwell put it in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Fortunately, freedom has heroes who resist at all cost. Chinese dissidents, bloggers in Iran and Cuba, journalists in Africa and Central Asia make up a planetary army whose only arms are their computers, their cameras and sometimes just their pens.
But their courage is not always enough to pierce the great walls of censorship. This is why Reporters Without Borders has decided to provide them with a website, WeFightCensorship, for posting content that has been censored or banned or has given rise to reprisals against the content creator.
A deterrent based on what is called the "Streisand effect," WeFightCensorship aims to make censorship obsolete, to show that jailing a content creator, seizing copies of a newspaper or blocking acess to a video website will not prevent the content from going around the world and, on the contrary, will just encourage its dissemination. The message is clear for every kind of despot: The more you tried to suppress the truth, the more WeFightCensorship and its mirror sites will ensure that it circulates.
Only real freedom of information allows us to verify that the other freedoms are being respected. Only freedom of information allows diverging interests to be expressed -- democracy -- and prevents certain segments of society or entire human groups from being forgotten. Amartya Sen, a winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, said that famines only happen when the people concerned are unable to express their needs.
To report news and information is to fight for a vision of humanity, for the principle that human beings have the right not to be crushed by propaganda. The Homo sapiens in Plato's cave evolve into modern human beings when they are no longer satisfied with the shadows. Nearly one half of humankind still lacks access to freely reported news and information at the start of the 21st century. Deprived of the basic lucidity needed to run their lives, dependent like children who are told fairy tales, billions of people are stripped of their existence.
Under a regime of propaganda, lies and concealment, whether brutal or soft, you can at best walk, but you are not free to choose the road you take. You think you have emerged from the cave, but you have entered a tunel. WeFightCensorship is now showing the way out.
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