World Press Freedom Day

Today – May 3 – is World Press Freedom Day.

“World Press Freedom Day is celebrated across the globe every May 3rd, representing an opportunity to commemorate the fundamental principles of press freedom and to pay solemn tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

“UNESCO’s celebration of World Press Freedom Day 2010 will highlight the importance of freedom of information as an integral part of freedom of expression and its contribution to democratic governance. It will foster reflection and exchange of ideas on freedom of information to advance empowerment, transparency, accountability and the fight against corruption, as well as on the key obstacles that the effective exercise of the right to know faces in today’s digitalized world.”

Please read Freedom of Expression, Access and Empowerment, pay special attention to 2. The role of community media; especially B, the citizen reporter, and C, new technologies. All of which explains what this blog means to me and why I keep coming back here.

During last week’s brouhaha over the town board’s drastic budget cuts, small town politics eclipsed our own harassment situation. They overlapped each other in conversations. In discussing the harassment situation with people, local politics wormed its way in. Discussions about local politics inevitably led to talking about the harassment. No one talked about my dogs. Instead it always came back around to my blog.

The Universe was trying to tell me something. So I listened.

A close friend put it bluntly, “It should be obvious to you by now that the reason you’re being harassed is because of your blog. It’s not so much what you say, but just by putting it out there, it draws attention to you. For some people, especially people in authority, that in and of itself, is enough to make them want to take you down a notch. Who do you think you are anyway? And the real wack-os use what you publish as an excuse to justify acting out their hostility by harassing you.”

I considered what she said. My blog is four years old which is about the same amount of time we’ve been harassed by neighbors and cops. Of course it’s also the same amount of time we’ve had Venus, but she’s the scapegoat in this situation – not the problem. We have proven that over and over, ad nauseam. 

Someone else said it’s not just my blog, that we probably pissed off a few people with our video surveillance system. Considering I live in a town where barking dog complaints get an immediate response from one or even two squad cars on the scene but when I called to report a man standing in front of my house harassing me and the dogs at 5:45 a.m., I got a phone call from the Chief who wondered why I didn’t know the guy’s name, the video surveillance system and my dogs are my only real security. 

Another person told me that I have to accept responsibility for my words. Some people don’t like what I write. That sounds an awful lot like blaming the victim. Though I don’t see myself as a victim, I have endured the harassment, cursed it, and used it as an opportunity for personal growth. I do believe I am responsible for the words I write. I also believe actions have consequences. In the land of freedom of expression people have the right to disagree with me and to express their disagreement. But harassment is not a rational response. Just because someone doesn’t like what I publish doesn’t mean I’m responsible for their feelings. Nor am I obligated to appease them.

Through the past 4 years, I have been challenged head on about some particular content or other on my blog. Too many times it descended into harassment by email, which is as annoying as May flies at River Park and just as harmless. All part of the territory, I told myself. After all, you’re not a real blogger until you get hate emails.

When Tod hired a lawyer to inform the town board and attorney that my opinions and my blog were independent of his opinions and his political position, we were defending my right to freedom of expression. We had no choice. It was political harassment.

What was and is most disturbing of all is when our dogs are used to harass us. Lying about their behavior and provoking them to elicit a reaction from us is insidious. Constantly paying attention to our comings and goings, or following us when we walk the dogs in an effort to “catch” us or our dogs doing something wrong amounts to harassment.

Who do I think I am anyway?

I am someone who tries to make sense of the world around me – or poke fun at the nonsense – by writing it down. The internets provide me with the format to share it with others. No one is forced to read my blog. From my perspective there are not two sides to my opinion. Anyone who disagrees with me or feels the need to provide another perspective is free to start their own blog. That is, of course, the true empowerment in freedom of expression. Anyone can do what I do.

Today I reflect in a moment of silence and stand in solidarity with other journalists, reporters, bloggers, authors, any wordsmiths who are or have been harassed, threatened, arrested, imprisoned, tortured, or murdered because of their words.

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6 Comments on “World Press Freedom Day”

  1. Jerry Bresco Says:

    Fortunately I do not have to be a resident of your community.That said,I enjoy your blog as it gets to the skinny of the B.S. happening around you and a colorful insight to major players in your town.Personally;and I can say personally,I am not impressed with certain political figurines I’ve encountered there.Those present and some recently removed. Your town lost a good man,I feel,when your husband stepped down from his position. So go ahead and blog.Blog until the cows come home,because I really enjoy it.The rancor and humor are priceless. For everything else,there’s M_ _ _ _ _ _ Card.

  2. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    Wow — I don’t think you have any idea how much that means to me. Thank you for taking the time to say it — and with such wit and satire. lol
    A local reporter once questioned the “legitimacy” (?? yup) of my blog because I don’t get scads of comments from local residents.
    To which I replied, “Who can blame them? When local people read about how much crap we take do you think they are eager to join in the conversation? Better us than them.”
    The reporter was speechless.
    I guess that makes you a brave soul — but then you said you don’t live in town. Lucky you.
    It’s just so nice to hear from someone who gets this blog.
    It’s an “acquired taste”.

  3. bowen roberts Says:

    i share the fortune. happy to have stumbled into the styx–blog on–O2 man: is there really 1 in every town?

  4. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    I think there’s usually another one in training — so that makes 2.
    Big thanks to the other guy who reads my blog.

  5. Gabrielle Says:

    Peggy, your words reflect what a lot of us feel inside. Sadly, your poor dogs have become the victims in this “neighborly” behavior. I use the term neighborly lightly.

    I get it! I’ve never blogged about it as eloquently as you, though. And for that, I thank you for your words. To be ostracized for your words is as old school as when the 1600s British monarchy sought to destroy American press for providing our country a new insight.

    A blog is not fair and balanced journalism, it is an opinion. Luckily, for me, I can hide behind the excuse, “It’s a joke! I’m a comedian.” However, for many writers, they cannot hide, they can only continue to stand up for their freedom of opinion and freedom of press.

    If people don’t like American Idol, they can change the channel. If people don’t like the New York Times, they can read the Denver Post. If people don’t like your blog, they can read something else.

    But to turn their opinion into anger, and to turn that anger towards you and your dogs, is childish. Absolutely childish.

    Stay the course Peggy. Keep up your wonderful blog and never stop! There are some of us who appreciate you more than words!

  6. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    GB is a fan of my blog? OMG! That means I really AM somebody — cuz you are definitely somebody. Actually I do sometimes use the “it’s a joke!” excuse. But unlike you I’m no comedian so it rarely flies. There’s no excuse for my behavior. Anyway I gotta go and tell somebody that THE Gabrielle Birchak reads my blog.
    K-thnx, bye
    FOGB (fan of GB)

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