Merrill College faculty and graduate students on Thursday released the following letter addressing the shameful violence directed against journalists covering the uprising in Egypt.
For more information, please contact Dr. Susan Moeller (301-405-2419, firstname.lastname@example.org), Dr. Chris Hanson (301-405-6049, email@example.com) or Stine Eckert, co-president of the Merrill Graduate Student Association (740-274-1988, firstname.lastname@example.org).
We, the faculty and doctoral students of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, express our solidarity with the journalists struggling to bring the story of Egypt to the world in the face of the theft and destruction of mobile phones, cameras and recording gear, mob attacks, savage beatings, carjackings, detentions, and arrests.
We call upon Egyptian security forces to cease and desist from inciting, encouraging or committing violence; we call upon President Hosni Mubarak and aides to demand that they as individuals — and as a government — allow journalists to do their work unhampered.
The U.S. Department of State recently announced the theme for this year’s World Press Freedom Day, to be held in Washington, D.C.: “21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers.” The press statement noted:
“New media has empowered citizens around the world to report on their circumstances, express opinions on world events, and exchange information in environments sometimes hostile to such exercises of individuals’ right to freedom of expression. At the same time, we are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information. We mark events such as World Press Freedom Day in the context of our enduring commitment to support and expand press freedom and the free flow of information in this digital age.”
We call upon the United States government to live up to these statements, to move beyond condemnation, and exert all diplomatic pressure at its disposal to stop the attacks on journalists in Egypt.
Journalism schools are not ivory towers, distant and apart from the world. Those who are being attacked are our relatives, our colleagues, our mentors, our former students. Linda Davidson, a photographer with the Washington Post, is in Cairo and was detained by Egyptian authorities. She is the wife of John Davidson, one of our faculty members at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Ayman Mohieldin of Al Jazeera English spoke at the college this past semester to a full auditorium of faculty and students. He too is in Cairo, reporting for Al Jazeera. The links to those on the ground in Egypt are many; the threats to them too real.
Our personal connections to those covering the news in Egypt are important to how powerfully we feel these attacks. But even if we did not recognize their names or faces, their work would matter to us as citizens. Our freedoms, our human rights depend on journalists’ ability to report the news. Those who threaten journalists, threaten everyone’s ability to function with intelligence and understanding. Those who silence journalists, end everyone’s capacity to act knowledgeably and responsibly.
One hundred and ninety-five years ago, on January 6, 1816, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter from Monticello to Col. Charles Yancy, a veteran of the War of 1812. Jefferson wrote: “The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves; nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe.”
Merrill College Faculty and Graduate Students
(Dr. Susan Moeller, Dr. Chris Hanson, Stine Eckert, Dean Kevin Klose, Dr. Katherine C. McAdams, Deb Nelson, Elia Powers, Rafael Lorente, Diana Huffman, Dr. Linda Steiner, Dr. Maurine Beasley, Dr. Ira Chinoy, Kevin Blackistone, Cassandra Clayton, Carl Sessions Stepp, Sue Kopen Katcef, Leslie Walker, Dr. Carol Rogers, Dr. Ron Yaros, Penny Bender Fuchs, Robert J. Woodruff III, Adrianne Flynn, Dr. Lee Thornton, Alex Pyles, Eric Easton, Sean Mussenden.)