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vrijdag 4 mei 2007

Press Freedom and Freedom tout court

Yesterday - or rather, as it is past midnight, the day before yesterday, 3 May - it was World Press Freedom Day. We had a thought for the dozens of journalists killed since the beginning of 2007. 1889 have been killed since 1944 - and at last, a monument has been erected to their memory, in Bayeux, the first French town liberated in June 1944. Many have been killed in Irak, of course, but Mexico and the Philippines are also amongst the most dangerous countries for reporters. And what to say of Afghanistan, where Adjmal Nashqbandi was decapitated less than a month ago. He was not as lucky as Daniele Mastrogiacomo, his Italian colleague with whom Adjmal was kidnapped, to be supported by a big newspaper and a government ready to negotiate to save him.
And then you have all those journalists who die slowly, in prison, or held hostage by known or unknown kidnappers - like Alan Johnston, abducted in Gaza where he worked, and held since 12 March. His whereabouts are unknown - and though some say they have evidence he is still alive and well, there is nothing to show it. 35.000 people have signed a petition to save him and to ask for his immediate release.
And then there is U Win Tin, the most famous journalist in Burma, imprised without trial since 1989. He turned 77 in March, he is in ill health. Both Amnesty International and RSF launched actions to free him. There again, the only thing we can do is sign.

And in this country, today - or rather, yesterday, 4 March - we commemorated the death of WWII: those who fought, and those who were just victims. I went to a local ceremony, held at the spot where resistants were shot dead. A small choir sang, before and after the traditional two minutes' silence. The evening sun fell through the leaves, thick already. Birds sang. We sang our national hymn, the Wilhelmus. As always, I was moved - and happy to see that the younger generations were present too. Memories will be passed on.

As I rode away, afterwards, on my bike, seeing the flowers all around, the blossoming trees, a verse of Louis Aragon's (sung by Léo Ferré) lingered in my head: 'Toi qui va demeurer dans la beauté des choses...' I will probably always associate this beautiful poem (L'Affiche Rouge) with this particular day of 4 May...

Tomorrow - or today, 5 May - is our Liberation Day, commemorating the day the armistice was signed in the Netherlands, in 1945. As it follows so closely the Queen's Official Birthday, it is a bank holiday only once every 5 years. How mean...

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