Social Issues May 3, 2012
'Toast To Freedom': It's World Press Freedom Day

Today is World Press Freedom Day. To commemorate the occasion, Amnesty International has released a song produced by the great Levon Helm, who recently passed away. 'Toast To Freedom' features nearly 50 artists, including Kris Kristofferson, Carly Simon, Angelique Kidjo, Ewan McGregor, Jane Birkin, and Roseanne Cash. Check the tune out below:

The song was written by Carl Carlton and Larry Campbell, two veteran guitarist/producers - Carlton conceived of the idea for the song along with music industry exec and activist Jochen Wilms and Art for Amnesty founder Bill Shipsey. Wilms paid tribute to Levon Helm's contribution to the song, saying, "the song 'Toast To Freedom' is dedicated to Amnesty International but in a certain way is now a 'Toast To Levon' and a celebration for him as well".

The Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom is also marking World Press Freedom Day with a cartoon contest on the theme of Power to the People: Citizens and Social Media. The winning cartoon by Brazilian cartoonist Liza France, is below:


Alongside the art it has inspired, international freedom of the press is once more under the microscope this year. A report on press freedom was released yesterday by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). They list 10 countries that stand out as censors for imposing "dictatorial controls" on domestic media, preventing international media from entering, and other restrictions. At the top of the list was Eritrea, followed by North Korea, Syria and Iran.

A separate study indicates that there is reason to be cautiously optimistic about the state of press freedom over the past year. According to Freedom House's annual survey of freedom of the press around the world, for the first time in eight years global media freedom showed no overall decline. The report criticized China, Russia, Iran and Venezuala for "detaining and jailing critics", but Freedom House's president David J. Kramer also stated that "the newly opened media environments in countries like Tunisia and Libya, while still tenuous and far from perfect, are critical for the future of democratic development in the region".

In this country, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) have given the federal government a failing grade on freedom of expression in Canada. The report points out that "the number of ATI (access to information) requests denied on security grounds has tripled since 2002-2003". On the legislative side, the group gave Canada's Supreme Court a B+, and cited their ruling that wiretapping without a warrant is unconstitutional.

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