World Press Freedom Day: personal portraits

Human rights are rights that apply worldwide, to all people, in all places, at all times. They are the foundations of a democracy in which every person counts. The Netherlands strives to protect and promote human rights all over the world.

This year the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Unesco will host the World Press Freedom Conference: a joint celebration of World Press Freedom Day and the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. In that context, we present a series of personal portraits about journalists, fighting for press freedom worldwide. This is in cooperation with RNTC and Humans of Amsterdam. The photocredits belong to Debra Barraud:

Ashraf

‘In 2011, I spent two months in Kabul training young reporters. I remember arriving at the airport. By the amount of security, it was apparent that I was in the midst of a war zone. In Afghanistan, my outlook on life changed. I made really good friends, I saw snow for the first time in my life and I witnessed a suicide attack. Still, I never regretted my decision to go. The whole reason I became a journalist was to make a difference in this world. My students were brave, hardworking young men and women. Being a journalist, in general, is not easy. Being a journalist in a country that hasn't had a functioning democracy or media for decades is even harder. I really admired each one of them for their devotion to journalism. Especially the women in my class, who continued their work despite the societal and family pressure to get married instead. Once, a male colleague asked one of them: ''If you continue doing this, who will marry you?'' She replied: ''I want to do something for my country. That is more important than getting married.'' Sometimes I feel I learned more from them than they did from me.’

Mariam

‘Ten years ago, I had a lot of stability in my career and everything seemed very successful. I was working in international public finance. However, I felt that this was not what I am meant to do in life. I have always had a passion for filming and journalism. In addition to my office job, I was working in media in my free time. I made several humanitarian films. One of them is a documentary about a group of Egyptians who went to Africa to volunteer. When this documentary received an award for best film from Germany, I felt confident enough to quit my job. Now I have been a filmmaker and journalist for 10 years. I faced a lot of discrimination and sexism within the culture of different international media organizations. Despite the many awards and recognitions, I received, I have been hearing sexist comments. I have been told that I am too fragile as a female to work in journalism. One time, my work has been unethically published under a male co-worker’s name. When I complained, I got threatened by the organization to be silent. I once was asked by my manager why I was making a documentary about a bunch of complaining Arabs, when I was filming refugees inside a camp in Greece. Becoming a journalist is the best decision that I made. However, it does come with a price. Especially when you are someone who fights for media integrity, ethical reporting and stands up against corruption. Being a journalist is a big responsibility which I take very seriously. I aspire for media without fear or favor.’

James

‘It’s very important for journalists to be able to provide accurate reporting on sensitive topics so that people can be well informed. But unfortunately, we still see too many cases around the world where information gets tailored, and sometimes covered up, and journalists are made to report according to the dictates of their governments or media organizations. As a professional journalist this worries me. There is no weakness in writing the truth. Reporting accurately on issues is critical if we want productive conversations that can bring lasting solutions around those issues.’