Tuesday, 2 May 2017

World Press Freedom Day at Hull History Centre

The 3rd of May marks World Press Freedom Day, an international day of awareness instigated by the UN in 1993. It is held to raise awareness of free press issues and the duty of governments to uphold Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (relating to the right to freedom of expression). The 3 May was chosen as it marks the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek, a statement of free press principles issued by African newspaper journalists in 1991.

Each year UNESCO marks the day by organizing a conference of media professionals, press freedom organisations and UN agencies to discuss press freedom issues, solutions and challenges. The first was held in London in 1998 on ‘Press Freedom is a Cornerstone of Human Rights’. This year the UNESCO conference is being held in Jakarta, Indonesia.

We thought we would take this opportunity to give you a taster of some of our collections that champion the principles of free speech and civil rights.

A recently catalogued example comes from the records of former University of Hull graduate, Chris Mullin. A retired Labour MP, author and journalist, he joined the Labour Party in 1967, in part as a reaction against the Vietnam War. After university, he worked as a journalist and foreign correspondent in Asia, during which time he met and interviewed the Dalai Lama. He visited and reported on human rights issues in Vietnam, Laos, Tibet, Cambodia and China. He was a member of the Socialist Campaign Group, and editor of the socialist journal Tribune. Throughout his political career he was not afraid to speak out against even members of his own party in pursuit of truth and justice, he also served as Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee. He pursued a successful campaign to prove that there had been a miscarriage of justice in the case of the Birmingham Six. He was also outspoken on the British Governments position on various international issues including military support for the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Throughout his career Mullin campaigned for a free press, without the influence of media barons and conglomerates.

Photograph showing Mullin and Arthur Scargill with others at a Tribune rally, 1983 [U DMU/1/61]

Another of the collections held at Hull History Centre records the activities of pressure group Liberty (formerly the National Council for Civil Liberties). The very foundation of the organisation was predicated on the use of media, press and their own publications to raise public awareness of infringements to civil liberties. Within the collection there are many files relating to issues of freedom of speech and censorship.

Press cutting re censorship of appeals to help Spanish civilians [U DCL/4/4]

The Campaign for Academic Freedom and Democracy CAFD), formed in 1970 by a ground of left-wing academics including John Saville, is also amongst our collections. Since its inception, CAFD has championed the rights to academic freedom and free speech. As well as advising on individual cases, the organisation promotes is work through the use of media and publicity work to highlight cases of injustice.
Minutes from AGM of CAFD [U DAF/1/1]

If you would like further information about any of these collections please see our online catalogue for details.

Claire Weatherall, Assistant Archivist (HUA)

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