The Risk of Freedom

Emin Milli, a 33-year-old blogger, was arrested in Azerbaijan on January 23rd for a participating in a peaceful rally that he helped organize evidenced by one of his Facebook posts. He was released from jail on February 11th.

Emin’s story is not an uncommon one in places with overarching governments and a lack of freedom of the press. Azerbaijan is a prime example of a place with poor press conditions, according to Freedom House. Where most journalists are afraid to anger the government, Milli contests these conditions through social media. He defeats the restrictions on the press by using social media, such as his Twitter account and his blog, as his form of journalism. He said, “It’s important the world knows what is happening in Azerbaijan.”

Organizations like Freedom House, Reporters without Borders, Human Rights Watch, PEN International, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe monitor the government of Ilham Aliyev, the current president of Azerbaijan. These organizations function internationally and this yields the idea that freedom of the press and free speech should be a universal right. Journalists are hindered from doing their job effectively and being watch dogs of the government when the government will retaliate for words said and written.

Jillian C. York, Electronic Frontier Foundation’s director for International Freedom of Expression said, “I think that Emin is incredibly brave…while there would be no shame, from my view, in taking time to rest after being released from prison, he continues to speak out loudly and risk his freedom for what he believes in.”

People like Emin are the ones who can further the rights of free speech and press that can in turn promote truth that is needed to give a government accountability.

Is work like Emin’s worth the risk of being put in jail? How can a free press change the living conditions in a country? Should free speech on social media be exempt from restrictions on the press?


One Comment on “The Risk of Freedom”

  1. Taryn Winston says:

    In regard to the first question you posed, I most certainly think that Emin’s work was worth the risk of being put into jail. As a matter of fact, I believe that the underlying goal of journalism and reporting is to expose the truth to the public and hold the government (or other institutions) accountable. Thus, if this means that lives are threatened or jail sentences are imposed, then so be it. While my views may sound extreme, I personally feel that if journalists were limited by the fear of incarceration (or even death), then they could not fulfill their purpose. This leads me to the next question of how exactly a free press can change the living conditions in a country. To me, the answer is fairly straightforward: exposure. Spreading the word and coverage so that all can be informed is perhaps the most powerful tool journalists have. And while it may be dangerous, it will capture the attention of many and work in favor of change. The last question you posed is a tricky one. While I do believe that social media was originally intended to be a relatively private mean of communication, its growing presence and dominance in mainstream society has morphed it into another version of the press. Thus, while I do believe that social media speech should be protected, I do not necessarily think that it should enjoy more privileges than other forms of the press.

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