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NUJ pays tribute to journalists who pursue truth

1 May 2009

Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, has paid tribute to journalists who pursue the truth at a major debate in advance of Sunday's World Press Freedom Day.

Speaking at the event organised by United Nations agency UNESCO today, Jeremy Dear noted many examples of investigative journalism revealing uncomfortable truths that governments would rather never came out.

Every year, World Press Freedom Day is marked on 3 May. Journalists, campaigners and media organisations around the globe celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom and remember journalists who put themselves at risk in pursuit of exposing the truth.

The UNESCO event brought together journalists, academics and media commentators to debate the role of governments at war in controlling the media. Jeremy Dear joined Andrew Gilligan, Evening Standard columnist; Jamie Shea, former NATO spokesperson; and Alan Fisher, Al Jazeera English correspondent, to debate the motion: "Governments at war are winning the battle of controlling the international media."

Speaking against the statement, Jeremy Dear highlighted the challenges that many journalists face today:

"The war on terror has been accompanied by a war on civil liberties and independent journalism, in conflicts from Kosovo to Iraq sophisticated propaganda machines have sought to control, censor, spin and in the absence of all else physically attack and kill journalists in order to seek to control the message."

He went on to highlight a number of cases where journalists have been able to report the truth, illustrating his speech with examples from Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Guantanamo Bay and Gaza.

Jeremy Dear went on to say:

"If governments were winning the war, Al Jazeera would not have picked up four million new subscribers in the first days of the Iraq war. If governments were winning the war there would not have been a ten per cent rise in US citizens using foreign websites as their main source of news during the first siix days of the conflict."

However, an audience vote at the end of the debate clearly concluded that governments at war are winning the battle to control the media.

Speaking after the event, Jeremy Dear said:

"Whilst it is depressing how far governments are able to influence the media, there are still some shining examples of true investigative journalism out there. Whatever the outcome of the vote, today's session was a chance to celebrate the work of those journalists who are risking their lives and livelihoods to bring us the truth and to remember why freedom of the press is so important."

Tags: , world press freedom day, press freedom, al jazeera, evening standard, nato, censorship, journalists assaulted, journalists killed, websites, new media, kosovo, iraq, afghanistan, zimbabwe, gaza, guantanamo bay