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May 3, 2017

Remembering Jean Bigirimana on World Press Freedom Day

At Humanity United, we join others around the world to mark World Press Freedom Day, an annual celebration of the fundamental principles of press freedom. First proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993, May 3rd is also the anniversary of The Windhoek Declaration, a milestone statement of press freedom principles developed by African journalists in 1991.

On this day we acknowledge that a free press is essential to democracy and that freedom of opinion and expression is a fundamental human right. Unfortunately, on this day, we must also acknowledge the reality that press freedoms remain under attack abroad and right here in the U.S., as evidenced by two recent reports: Freedom of the Press 2017, from Freedom House, and the 2017 World Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders.

In the U.S., we’ve recently seen the press heckled and often demeaned. But elsewhere in the world, journalists may pay for truth with their lives.

Today is an opportunity to pay tribute to these brave journalists. Local reporters especially bear the brunt of government crackdowns, detention, arrest, and silencing from those who do not want a free and fair press. And on this day, we remember Jean Bigirimana, a journalist at (HU-grantee) IWACU, one of the last independent media outlets operating in Burundi.

Jean was abducted on July 22, 2016 by men allegedly associated with the Burundian National Intelligence Service. Over nine months later, there is still no news of his whereabouts.

At Humanity United, we support media organizations like IWACU and journalists like Jean because the access to information and accountability provided by the press are fundamental to democracy and open societies. Tragically, in Burundi, as in too many other places around the world, journalists pay the ultimate price to exercise this right.

On World Press Freedom Day, we honor those who have given their lives in this line of duty and those who take unimaginable risks every day to shine a light where it is needed most. We also call upon President Nkurunziza and his government to release information about the fate of Jean Bigirimana. His family–and the public–deserves nothing less than the truth.

Photo courtesy of Iwacu

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