PRESS FREEDOM IN AMERICA? ¡Ay, caramba!
State Officials Sonenshine, Posner on Importance of Press Freedom
Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara D. Sonenshine and Michel Posner, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, brief at the Washington Foreign Press Center April 18 on the importance of press freedom.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
FOREIGN PRESS CENTER BRIEFING
WITH TARA D. SONENSHINE,
UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR PUBLIC DIPLOMACY AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS
AND ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS AND LABOR MICHAEL POSNER
TOPIC: FREE THE PRESS CAMPAIGN
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2012 at 9:30 A.M., EDT
THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER
MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone. I’d like to alert our colleagues on the phone that we’re about to begin our program. The topic today is the Free the Press campaign in the run-up to the World Press Freedom day, which is May 3rd. And we’re joined today by Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; and Tara Sonenshine, our new Secretary – Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.
So we’ll get some few remarks from Mr. Posner and then turn it over to Ms. Sonenshine.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Great. Thank you. I first want to thank our friends at the Foreign Press Center for hosting this, and thank you all for being here. We are in the run-up now to World Press Freedom Day, which is May 3rd, and there will be a meeting sponsored by UNESCO in Tunisia. Every year, the President, very senior officials of the government – of our government speak out and make statements in connection with World Press Freedom Day, and we thought this year we would go a bit farther and really try to emphasize the importance of this subject.
We’ve seen some improvements in the last year in some Middle Eastern countries, in places like Burma – where I was fortunate to travel with the Secretary, where a number of journalists were released. But the overall trend of journalistic freedom is actually on the decline, and in a range of countries which we can talk about, there are really serious issues. A number of journalists, bloggers are behind jail – are behind bars. And just to give you one statistic, the Committee to Protect Journalists, a very reputable organization working on these issues, in 2001 reported an all-time high in the number of journalists who are being detained, and that number was 118. Eleven years later, the number is 179. So we’ve seen an escalation in these attacks.
We’re going to talk more about some of the particular details, but I’m really thrilled to be able to introduce my new colleague, old friend, Tara Sonenshine, who is – knows these issues from various perspectives. She’s an award-winning journalist herself, having worked for many years with ABC Nightline, won 10 Emmy awards. She’s worked in the government before in the National Security Council, and she has most recently been a senior official with the U.S. Institute for Peace.
She’s just joined the State Department as our Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in the last couple of weeks, and we’re really thrilled to have her as a colleague. And so Tara, please.
UNDER SECRETARY SONENSHINE: Well, thank you very much. I want to say firstly how great it is to be here as an early stop, but I also want to say how truly privileged I feel to be working with Michael Posner. You could not have a better champion and advocate for democracy and human rights, and so this is really just an honor to be with him and with you today. I wanted to share with you – and I know it’s an informal Q&A setting, but I did want to share some prepared remarks to set the table a bit for our conversation.
As a former journalist, I have seen up close and personal some of the occupational hazards of speaking truth to power. And I do want to say to all of you that I believe media freedom is oxygen; it’s the moral equivalent of oxygen. It is how a society breathes, and it is a key pillar of building civil societies.
And so what happens when you cut off the flow of news and information? Societies suffer, economies suffer, individuals suffer. And I want to emphasize the point that we’ll come back to of these numbers of attacks, people murdered, people who go unpunished. I also want to call out all of those in the field and salute them who do the investigative reporting, the really tough stuff, where you’re exposing corruption, exposing darkness, and bringing light to very difficult issues.
I’m also really privileged to be joining an administration that has made the issue of freedom of the press and freedom of the internet a major issue. When President Obama said recently at the Summit of the Americas, and I quote, “When universal human rights are denied, when the independence of judiciaries or legislatures or the press is threatened, we will speak out.” And I think that’s what we’re doing today: raising these issues, raising media freedom cases, which we do in public and in private. And I know that Secretary Clinton has delivered, I think, three major speeches on internet freedom, and has spoken powerfully about this. The State Department, I know, has funded many programs and trainings and assistance work, which, as Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, I hope to work and contribute and do my part to promote and protect journalism.
So let me just say that in all of our embassies, our foreign posts, foreign service officers engaging with journalists, and between now and World Press Freedom Day and every day, I think we need to speak out about the principles and the rights of those jailed, attacked, disappeared, forced into exile, or murdered. So I think today, I’m told that on humanrights.gov, for example, you can learn more about the case of our Vietnamese blogger whose case is spotlighted today.
So again, I want to thank all of you, those in New York, those at oversees posts, for allowing us the opportunity to engage with you on something we all feel deeply and passionately about.
Dick, back over to you.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. And as you mentioned, we’re joined today by our colleagues at the Foreign Press Center in New York as well as callers from throughout Africa through our regional hub in Johannesburg. And I’d like to remind those callers that they should press *1 if they want to get into the question queue. Do that now so we’re ready to take your question a little later on.
But we’ll begin here in Washington, and please state your name and your news organization.
QUESTION: Thank you. Hi, my name is –
MODERATOR: Hold on a second.
QUESTION: Thank you. Hi, my name is Andrei Sitov. I’m with the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS here in Washington, D.C. I have been here for 15 years. All these years, the FPC is our best source. The people here are our best friends. I want to thank them for doing another good briefing. And obviously, thank you, ma’am, for coming over so early in this new job. Congratulations that the wheels in Congress have finally turned even though it’s a tough job, but we all know that.
UNDER SECRETARY SONENSHINE: Spasibo bolshoe (speaking Russian).
QUESTION: (Laughter.) Pazhalooysta (speaking Russian). We’re looking forward to working with you.
My question is about the side of the issue of hand that I think is really vital. I think the life or death issue for the industry in general at this point is economic survival. It’s a near-life experience – a near-death experience, as you know, for the industry because of the collapse of the previous business models. I was struck a couple years ago when the FTC did a study about this by the fact that the industry here, the media here, basically turned down any suggestion at any government interference. Basically, we’d rather die but not accept any help from the government.
My question to you is: How do you see the future evolution of the business models for the media, for the new media? And what is the role of the government in that? Thank you.
UNDER SECRETARY SONENSHINE: Thank you, Andrei. I’ve followed your work at Brookings and for a long time, and I know how hard you have studied some of this. The economic models continue to shift. For a long time, we talked about convergence and how we would integrate online media, television media, and we thought out of that convergence conversation would come some sustainable financial models. I think we have not, I would agree, seen yet the ultimate way, whether it’s pay, subscription fees, advertising.
So I think this is an issue that we need to come together and talk about. I think government’s role is as a convener in this one. I would agree with you; we don’t want to encourage government interference in the media and we don’t want to encourage corporate interference. But we do want to convene and listen to one another about what will enable print, radio, online new PDA newscasts to survive and thrive so that we have the best in journalism.
MODERATOR: Okay. Another question from here. Silvia, yes.
QUESTION: Yeah, hi.
MODERATOR: Hold on, please.
QUESTION: Oh, sorry. Yeah, my name is Silvia Pisani. I am from La Nacion newspaper in Buenos Aires. In the last weeks, we have been seeing a lot of information about some concerns about freedom of expression in Argentina. I don’t know if you are familiarized with them. But I would like to ask you: How do you see the situation in Argentina, where, as I said, we are seeing a lot of increasing concern here in the Capitol and the Congress and so on?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: First of all, I should say that I am a great admirer of the free press in Argentina. I worked a lot on issues relating to human rights in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, and a number of brave Argentine journalists helped uncover and raise public visibility of the Dirty War and the disappearances and the range of human rights violations, many risking their own lives. And so there’s a great tradition in Argentina of journalistic freedom.
I’m aware of some of the back and forth between the government and Clarin and some of the news agencies there about regulation. We’ve had these discussions with government officials in Argentina. I’m not going to get into every detail of it, but I think it’s sufficient to say that we are, in Argentina and elsewhere, concerned that there be an open press, that various viewpoints be presented to the public, and that the press have the ability to speak openly, independently, and clearly about issues of the day.
MODERATOR: We’ll take one more question here and then we’ll head to Johannesburg. Tolga.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you for this and thank you for everyone from the Foreign Press Center. This is Tolga Tanis from Hurriyet, Turkish daily. First of all, I will like to get your assessment about the situation in Turkey. The press freedom is an issue since a long time in Turkey, but there are some new developments. I will like to learn for – your assessment about the new situation.
And secondly, as you mentioned, President Obama is eager to raise this issue, but I’m wondering, does the dilemma in terms of the U.S. interest all around the world to raise this issue – for example, it’s not a big deal to raise press freedom issue in Iran, in North Korea, in some countries which has been depicted as an enemy of U.S. But how about the allies? I mean, the U.S. ambassador to Ankara did that. For example, when he came to Ankara, he raised this issue, and there was a backlash from Turkish prime minister. And then it seems it stop. I mean, how you did – are you dealing with this dilemma of U.S. interests and universal values, let’s say?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Let me answer that, if I may, in a general sense, and then specifically with regard to Turkey.
Secretary Clinton has said, and President Obama, that our human rights policy ought to be based on the notion of a single universal standard – that contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. So this is not about American values or American standards versus somebody else’s. It’s one standard and it applies to all, including ourselves, and we’ve been very mindful also of the importance of leading by example on this.
There are many, many countries – as you say, Turkey is one – where we have a range of other interests. And so we are now in intense conversations with the Turkish Government on regional issues, Syria and the like. Turkey is an important leader in the region, and we have economic and other strategic interests. Those things go on.
But an element of what we do is to raise concerns, and so we have raised concerns – our Ambassador and others – about a number of cases involving Turkish journalists. We’ve raised those issues privately with the Turkish Government; and we will, in the course of, for example, releasing a Human Rights Report in the coming weeks, again raise them publicly, as we’ve done in the past.
So it’s – these are not easy subjects, but it’s critical to us that we be able to have a human rights policy that applies across the board to countries that are – where we have strained relations as well as countries that are close allies like Turkey.
UNDER SECRETARY SONENSHINE: I would only add to that that the onus is always on great nations to raise tough issues, not only with those with whom you have strains, as Mike said, but also with your friends and allies. Freedom of the press is a conversation that has to be had with all countries, and I would support that notion that you lean in on difficult subjects like press freedom.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: I think we are well aware that there are a number of cases involving journalists who have been prosecuted, who are being tried. These cases have been – we’ve documented them. Groups like Committee to Protect Journalists are. So there are a number of cases that we’re paying attention to and raising with the government.
MODERATOR: Okay. We’ll turn now to my colleague Carrie Denver at the regional hub in Johannesburg. Carrie, are you there?
MS. DENVER: Yes, I am. Thank you, Dick. A quick reminder to callers to press *1 to ask a question. We’re going to take our first question from journalists gathered in the room in Johannesburg, so I’ll turn it over to them. Please state your name and affiliation before you ask a question.
QUESTION: Okay. My name is Lulu. I’m a journalist. My question is about press freedom and who controls it? And secondly, who decides limits of freedom? Thank you.
MODERATOR: Carrie, it was hard for us to hear that question. Could you repeat it, please?
QUESTION: What? I said who decides press freedom in the world and who controls it? Who decides press freedom?
MODERATOR: The question is who defines press freedom in the world and who controls it.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: I go back to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The issue of free expression is defined by a set of international standards which have been agreed by the vast majority of countries in the world. And there are a range of international treaties that reinforce this, like the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which 150 governments have ratified.
But this is a global conversation. There is not one – this is not a U.S. definition of press freedom or freedom of expression. It’s a universal discussion in which we play a part and South Africa plays a part and Russia plays a part.
UNDER SECRETARY SONENSHINE: For me, access to information is akin to access to water or any other basic need. It is very difficult in the 21st century to exist without any information. And most important to most people is local information, which argues for having well-trained, local, indigenous reporting. Because at the end of the day, you can’t really get through your day without some form of information. And so I don’t think it’s so much a matter of control as it is an issue of access.
MODERATOR: Okay. Another question from Johannesburg, Carrie?
MS. DENVER: We’ll take a question from Radio Mogadishu.
MODERATOR: Okay. I’m sorry. Did you say you had another question?
MS. DENVER: Yes. Radio Mogadishu.
QUESTION: My name is (inaudible) from Radio Mogadishu, government media. Talking about the freedom of the press, the Free the Press Campaign, in Somalia it’s more than two decades now violence and lawlessness. And since 2006, we have witnessed the sharp rise in the killing of journalists. And in particular in 2011, for example, more than 10 journalists were killed. And now in 2012, at least four journalists have been killed. That makes it like every month there’s a journalist who is killed. So what’s your message to the Somali journalists operating in Somalia and also the exiled Somali journalists on the Free the Press Campaign?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: I think the issue of physical attacks and killings of journalists is one that we’ve also monitored quite closely. And actually yesterday or the last couple of days, the Committee to Protect Journalists did a report very much focused on that issue and the issue of impunity. And I think this is really an important piece of what we’re trying to spotlight in this effort. It’s critical that governments take seriously their responsibility to hold accountable those who commit crimes. But in particular when a journalist is attacked, a journalist is physically attacked or killed, it has a chilling effect on the ability of others to report freely.
Again, Tara mentioned investigative reporters. We’ve seen time and again in countries that journalists who are investigating corruption or investigating official action are attacked. And it’s absolutely critical for governments in those situations in particular to do everything they need to do to hold full and fair investigations and to hold people accountable for those crimes. It’s important in its own right, and it has an enormous impact in terms of freedom of expression and journalistic freedom.
UNDER SECRETARY SONENSHINE: Your question reminds us that there are two distinct groups that we have to be focused on: journalists working inside conflict zones and journalists in exile outside conflict zones. And it is, as we all know, particularly difficult when you’re not inside to cover a story. And I know how frustrating that must be to be an exiled journalist and also know that your colleagues are inside suffering the consequences of repression.
MODERATOR: Carrie, do you have one more question? Carrie, do you have one more question for us?
MS. DENVER: Yes, I do. We have a question from a journalist gathered in Niger. If you could please state your name and affiliation before you ask your question, and please speak up to ask the question. Thank you.
QUESTION: My question is: How can a journalist in an oppressive government work for a free press? In Niger where the economy is still developing and media is run by the state.
MODERATOR: So the question is press freedom when the economy is not going well?
QUESTION: Yes, and also run by the state.
MODERATOR: Ties between press freedom and the economy.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Well, I think for many years we had a somewhat, I think, false debate about the relationship between political – civil and political rights and economic and social rights. The reality is that that those rights are indivisible. And when we talk about journalistic freedom, it’s absolutely critical for countries that are trying to build stronger, more healthy, more open economies that there be an open, transparent system where official misdeeds or corruption are brought to light, where budgets are made public, where there’s a public debate about economic choices and policies. This is a place where journalistic freedom and freedom of expression enhances the abilities of governments and countries to enjoy a economic prosperity and strength.
MODERATOR: Great. Thank you very much, Johannesburg. We’ll turn now back here. And Dagmar.
QUESTION: Good morning. My name is Dagmar Benesova. I am from World Business Press Online News Agency. And my question is: What is your opinion as to the importance of the direct access of a journalist to the source regarding of the freedom of the speech. And other question is: Is transparency of government and parliament not in direct correlation with the state of the freedom and democracy in the country? Thank you very much.
UNDER SECRETARY SONENSHINE: I think from what you said, there are really two issues here. One, openness and transparency has to be a shared goal by governments as well as media. I think it’s very difficult. The onus is on journalists always to get to the bottom of things. It’s a lot easier if governments and parliaments are open and transparent. And openness and transparency is good for societies generally, not only does it help in the reporting business.
I think on your other question, if you can be a little bit more specific on your first point.
QUESTION: It means that if the access to information – and maybe it’s also the part of the first question – it’s important for the journalist to cover the issues and things which are happening, that they have the free access to the information and these final things. Thank you.
UNDER SECRETARY SONENSHINE: You had mentioned sources in the beginning of your question. I come from the old school of reporting. We always had two sources. If you can’t get two sources, obviously you are inhibited in your reporting. And so this comes to the physical, sometimes virtual, and just the environment in which you’re operating. If you don’t feel safe, if you feel there are going to be repercussions in calling a source or meeting a source, you are essentially then in the position of having to self-censor or self-regulate.
So I do think, again, it’s access. It’s access to people; it’s access to government information; it’s access to stories. And without access, the job of reporting is made very difficult and, indeed, dangerous.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Just to add one footnote to that, Secretary Clinton is this week in Brazil for a meeting on Open Government Initiative, which is something that we and a range of other governments have undertaken together to provide more access, public access to information. I think that effort and what we’re talking about today dovetail; they’re two sides of the same coin. There’s a responsibility of governments to be more open, transparent; and an element of that transparency is allowing journalists to report on that information and to make the public more aware of what’s actually happening and the choices they face.
MODERATOR: Okay. Yes, here in the front row.
QUESTION: I am Ana Baron from Clarin, Argentina. So as you know, our paper has a lot of difficulties. But I wanted to ask you about what they call soft censorship. It seems that it is a new way of controlling the press. Many people think that in Argentina that is what is happening, because we don’t have killed journalists but we have some problems. So I wanted to know how do you deal with soft censorship, because sometimes they use democracy and even legal methods in order to control the press.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: I think one of the things we’re going to be doing in the coming days – and you’ll see this in some of the cases we’ll highlight on humanrights.gov – is to identify the different patterns of attacks on freedom of the press. We’ve talked about physical attacks, journalists being attacked in a war zone or in a – on a street. Another part is what you’re describing, which are the various ways that governments restrict the ability of broadcast media to get a license, the kinds of restrictions that make it difficult to get newsprint, a phone call to an editor saying this is a story you shouldn’t report on.
So when we talk about freedom of the press, we have a broad view here, and our broad view is that journalists ought to be able to report freely, without constraints, without fear to their own physical safety, but also that media outlets – newspapers, broadcast media, internet providers – need to have an open platform where they can speak about the issues of the day without constraint.
UNDER SECRETARY SONENSHINE: One answer for, I think, the future is training, not just of journalists but also training of government information spokespeople. I know we have some folks in the room from the IV program, and part of it – there’s training to be done both in those who cover the news and those who are covered. And I think when we bring up the level of understanding about legal issues, about how the press works, about how the government end of being a spokesperson or a press office works, we can’t forget that there are people who have not had to play the role in new and transitioning countries who really have to be given the capacity and skill building in how to handle and work with journalists.
MODERATOR: We’ll take one more question from here, and then we’ll head back to Johannesburg. Thomas, whom I think you know.
UNDER SECRETARY SONENSHINE: Been a long time. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: It’s good for me, but I don’t think it’s good for you. (Laughter.) Thomas Gorguissian, Al Tahrir, Egyptian daily newspaper. My question is related to sophisticated time we are living in, which is it’s not just by stopping the printer, jailing the newspaper person or whoever. But it’s the sophistication of whether it’s the tools or the policies of the – as you said a while ago, those who are covered and those who are, let’s say, uncovered or being covered.
So how you can handle this – especially you are a government and you said the corporations are somehow similar? So what’s your policy, or let’s say, what’s going to be your approach in this sophisticated time to make not just the flow of information going on, which is usually happen now with the tweeting or whatever, but to be sure or at least train people to evaluate what they are getting? It’s not just like anything, because this is – we are living in the age of misinformation, too.
UNDER SECRETARY SONENSHINE: I think the question is a good one. We’re in a period of information transition everywhere, and there is a difficulty now in establishing where the good housekeeping seals are. We don’t have, for example, in this country the network systems that we used to have where you knew if something came from ABC or CBS or NBC or then CNN. So in the proliferation of news outlets all around the world, there is now an enormous burden on the viewer, the reader, the listener, to discern is this from a worthy source.
And I think you’re getting to one of the great debates and soul searching that information specialists and people who think about policy have to now go through in this weeding out, if you will, of good information from not good information. What is objective? Is a cell phone simply waving in a crowd good information, reliable, authentic, credible? And these are great challenges. I don’t think it can be summed up in a policy yet, but it’s something policy makers and practitioners are going to have to really look hard at.
MODERATOR: Okay. We’ll go back now to my colleague Carrie Denver in Johannesburg for two questions. Carrie.
MS. DENVER: Thank you. The next question will come from Nairobi, Kenya. Please state your name and affiliation before you ask a question. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Okay. Hello, my name’s Emma Stoka from Nairobi, Kenya. In Kenya we have freedom of expression here but if I were to travel to a foreign country – am I supposed to abide by the laws, or as a foreign journalist am I too protected by my country? Thanks.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: I think our premise is that – and again, part of this discussion that’s going to be going on in the next few weeks is that there really needs to be a universal standard, a universal floor that applies to all governments. It transcends borders. And so what you as a Kenyan journalist are protected by is both Kenyan law, but also international standards which say that journalists have a right to gather the news and to report freely.
Undoubtedly, you will travel to places where those standards are not being respected. And part of our challenge – I think all of us both in government and, frankly, for you in the press – is to raise concerns when those international universal standards are not being respected, to challenge governments that are making it difficult or impossible for journalists to do their job, and to raise the volume on this so that there is some measure – measures are taken collectively by the international community to protect journalists.
MODERATOR: Okay. Carrie, one more question and then we’ll come back here for the last question.
MS. DENVER: Dick, we have one more question in Johannesburg. Sir, we’ll take your question from Johannesburg. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi, my name is (inaudible). I’d like to find out whether media (inaudible), or do they suffer different kinds of persecution?
MODERATOR: Let’s have you ask that question one more time. The line is breaking up. I apologize.
QUESTION: Okay. I wanted to find out if media freedom is gender specific. Do women tend to suffer persecution more, or do they suffer different kinds of persecution?
UNDER SECRETARY SONENSHINE: If I think I heard you correctly, the issue is about women reporters. And I have a particular interest in ensuring three things on this front. One, we need more women in the field of journalism, particularly around the world, in newsrooms, in editorial meetings, on op-ed pages. And that is something across the board that is important to raise the profession for access for women.
The second is that women have additional burdens in reporting, particularly in countries where there are issues that make their jobs more difficult. And I think we can list them all, but they are many and many-fold.
And the third issue is the issue, frankly, of disparities still for women’s pay in certain areas. And I know that there are efforts to make sure that women journalists have the parity in salary and conditions, and that these news operations around the world take into account the multiple burdens that women journalists face. So I think this is a particularly important issue.
MODERATOR: Okay. We have time for one more question. We’ll take it from here in Washington.
QUESTION: Hi. Hanan ElBadry, Cairo News, Egypt. Again, the relation between the money and the media or the freedom of the media. On the Egyptian case, one year after the revolution, we found some remnants of Mubarak’s regime taking over a big portion of the Egyptian – especially in the media. And within two months, they bought 14 TV channels, and now they are starting their own newspaper as well. And even at the Tahrir channel, which is a new TV broadcasting named after Tahrir Square, we found out that the remnants – some remnants of Mubarak bought the channel and they kicked out the independent broadcasting anchors. As well it happened in other area, too. They cut off the air – on air on one of the other independent. My question now: How can you assess such behavior for the – like in Egypt, a country who are seeking a real democracy?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: One of the things – again, I don’t think we’re in a position as a government to another to say, “Here’s the right or wrong answer on media ownership.” What I do – what we do believe is that it’s critical that there be diverse views. And we are, as we’ve remarked earlier, in a different place now than the world was 10 or 15 years ago. There are multiple avenues for people to express their views, and Egypt is a great example. There is a – there’s a question of where the broadcast networks are, but there’s also a whole range of social media that are in a much different place than they were even five years ago and certainly 10 years ago. I was last night at a dinner, and you’ll know the man’s name – he’s the Jon Stewart of Egypt – spoke.
QUESTION: He’s my good friend. I know him well. (Laughter.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: He described the growth of his YouTube platform from 5,000 the first week to several million hits. People in Egypt are watching and listening to his commentary in a way that is – we couldn’t have dreamed of 10 or 15 years ago.
So I think the key for me, the key for us is, as a matter of principle, there needs to be an open space for people, journalists, bloggers, commentators, to be able to express their views without government interference politically. There needs to be a diversity. And again, that’s going to work out differently in different places, but people need to have the information that they need to make informed choices in their participation in the political and economic life of their country.
UNDER SECRETARY SONENSHINE: You used a very important word, and I hope we don’t lose that word: independence and independent journalism. Independent media means a multiplicity of views and a diversity of voices and ideas. And I think we sometimes talk about press freedom and we forget that word, independent media, which is growing and has the potential to grow. But it is tied to economic abilities to sustain independent media, and it comes back to local, indigenous, independent media that needs to be fostered and nourished and nurtured if you’re going to have true civil societies.
QUESTION: Let me follow up with that, quickly. That all happened – happening while some independent journalists and reporters and anchors who’ve been kicked out of those channels been trying to get licensed to open their own channel. And bureaucratic, political reasons – we don’t know why we didn’t get that yet on order. Also, I will tell Bassem Youssef about your comments, sir. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Okay. And with that, we thank you very much for joining us today. And thank you for joining us and we’ll have a transcript a little later today. This concludes that program.
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