I’lam’s Pioneering Work on Freedom of Expression
Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, has said that ‘only when journalists are at liberty to monitor, investigate and criticize policies and actions can good governance exist’. Free media ensures accountability and transparency of ruling powers, and gives a voice to the people to participate in socio-economic and political discourses. It empowers communities, allowing citizens to engage in and shape debates that affect their lives. This is central to the work of I’lam – protecting citizens’ freedom of expression and giving them a sense of control and empowerment by promoting these rights, strengthening media institutions and engaging the public sphere.
As part of this work, I’lam develops video campaigns in order to spread important messages of empowerment to the public. Video campaigns in particular are effective because of their ability to cross cultural borders – especially language barriers – and communicate with a wide audience with important, relatable messages. They also present an opportunity for the organization to utilize new media, and to spread messages and campaigns to a wide audience by distributing videos through social media channels as well as more traditional outlets, including websites and newsletters.
I’lam has recently completed its most recent video, centered on speaking up and using our voice to highlight issues and to facilitate change. While freedom of the press is a legal right, and freedom of expression through media a human right as outlined by the UN’s Universal Declaration, this means little if we are not willing to use this right and express ourselves. Growing up under values that are subject to social and political templates can limit a person’s ability to express themselves freely, and in time these limitations can become self-enforced. This campaign focuses on resisting internalizing our suppression. The issue is as much about having the courage to not stay silent as it is about having the right to speak.
The completion of this video and the beginning of its distribution coincides with two important events. The first is the annual Arab Media Conference, which is led by I’lam and welcomes more than a hundred journalists and other media practitioners to discuss the state of the media in Israel and the challenges faced. This year’s Conference, taking place next month, will be held in Nazareth and will be attended by two leading journalists from the West Bank. The conference is an opportunity for us to discuss the freedoms and challenges we have in our time, and to provide people with new tools in the current media scene.
The second event is World Press Freedom Day, which takes place on the 3rd of May. This event, led by UNESCO, is used each year to celebrate, defend, and pay tribute to free media and its champions around the world, and also to assess the global state of press freedom in order to continuously improve participation in, and access to, crucial and balanced information through free and unobstructed media. This day also adopts specific themes each year, with the 2015 celebrations to focus on gender participation, measurements of journalism quality, and the safety of journalists’ sources in the digital age.
Both these local and international conference days allow us to develop new initiatives to create and sustain real press freedom; to remind governments to respect this freedom; and to encourage citizens to participate and to exercise this fundamental right. And this is the spirit of I’lam’s most recent video campaign, which applies not only to members of the public, but also to mainstream media and press professionals – we have the right to speak up, now we must choose not to remain silent.
You can see the promo for the video here; the full video will be published on our website later this week.