Reporting truth is not a crime: Kerry on press freedom

Washington: Asserting that reporting the truth is not a crime, US Secretary of State John Kerry has said a country without a free and independent press has nothing to teach and cannot fulfil its potential.

“To those who try to coerce or imprison reporters, we will always say loudly and clearly that committing journalism, reporting on the truth, is not a crime. It is a badge of honour and today we salute all near and far who proudly wear that badge,” Kerry told reporters on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day.

No government, whatever its pretentions or whatever its accomplishments, can fairly claim respect if its citizens are not allowed to say what they believe or denied the right to learn about events and decisions that affect their lives, he said in his special appearance before the State Department press.

“A country without a free and independent press has nothing to brag about, nothing to teach, and no way to fulfil its potential,” Kerry said.

Noting that every journalist is unique, Kerry said governments who crackdown on them may seek to convey strength, but what they actually convey is a deeply rooted kind of insecurity and weakness.

“It is no secret that we live in a turbulent era, and that the heart of a lot of that turbulence is a struggle that is waged over truth versus either outright lies or the obfuscation and denial of truth,” he said.

In a separate statement, the White House thanked the journalists around the world without whom democracy could not flourish and whose courageous work helps hold authorities to account.

“These are the men and women who work to ensure that debate on public issues can be, in the words of Justice William Brennan, ‘uninhibited, robust and wide open’. Through such debate we make the choices that shape our lives and the world around us,” said Ned Price, spokesman of National Security Council of the White House.

“While it is in the nature of responsible journalism to confront the powerful, the corrupt and the brutal, too many journalists risk their liberty and even their lives in doing so,” he said, adding that from China to Iran to Venezuela, brave men and women languish in prison for no greater crime than seeking to inform their fellow citizens.

“The United States calls for the release of those who have been imprisoned for exercising the freedom of expression that is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, even as we encourage governments to foster societies in which journalists can work freely and without fear,” Price said.