Secretary Rice Cites Importance of Free Press to Democracy

By Eric Green
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised journalists for being on the front lines to report “some of the most difficult conflicts in the world.”

Speaking April 10 at the State Department-sponsored Edward R. Murrow Journalism program, Rice said journalists very often have sacrificed their lives to bring the news to the general public.

“And so I especially want to acknowledge that sacrifice,” said Rice, speaking at the program, which brought about 200 journalists from around the world to examine journalistic practices in the United States.

The secretary welcomed the journalists to America, saying the program, developed by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, allows for an interchange of discussion by journalists on vital foreign policy issues.

Rice said, “There is no more important pillar of democracy than a free and active press,” what American “founding father” Thomas Jefferson called "the fourth estate."  Jefferson meant, said the secretary, that without a free and active press, “the people could not be certain that their views would be known to their leaders and that their leaders’ views would be known to them.”

In countries without freedom, said Rice, journalists are the ones “who make the sacrifice and endure the danger to try and report to the outside world so that those places can be free.  And so journalists are not just reporters … of great events, they are also very involved in making those events happen.”

The second annual Murrow program, planned for April 7-28, involves a public-private partnership between the State Department, the Washington-based Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit group, and 12 leading U.S. schools of journalism.  Edward R. Murrow, a renowned figure in the history of American broadcast journalism, served as the director of the U.S. Information Agency from 1961 to 1964.

The contributions and sacrifices made by journalists will also be recognized on World Press Freedom Day May 3.  The United States and the United Nations, among others, will hold events that day to raise awareness of the importance of press freedom. (See related article.)


Following her opening remarks at the Murrow forum, Rice fielded questions from the journalists on a variety of topics, including the various crises afflicting sub-Saharan Africa, the international force fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, the increase in the number of leftist governments in Latin America, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the Middle East and U.S. relations with Russia.

Regarding sub-Saharan Africa, Rice said President Bush launched a $15 billion program to bring treatment to hundreds of thousands of Africans suffering from AIDS.  In addition, Bush also announced a $1.43 billion malaria initiative aimed at eradicating 50 percent of the malaria cases on the African continent.  On the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan, Rice said the United States continues to be “very engaged” in trying to end the conflict in which many thousands of people have lost their lives. (See Darfur Humanitarian Emergency.)

The secretary called Afghanistan a “remarkable story,” saying that in 2001 the Taliban ruled that nation.  The brutal Taliban regime has been overthrown, said Rice, replaced by a democratic government that “Afghans went and voted for in huge numbers.” (See Rebuilding Afghanistan.)

Rice said President Bush emphasized during his March 8-14 trip to Latin America that the United States can and will work with governments “wherever they come from on the political spectrum, as long as they respect democratic elections and values.”

Rice said she is “devoted to the creation of a Palestinian state” so that a democratic Palestine and Israel “can live side by side in peace.”

Both the Palestinians and the Israelis need to recognize “that they’re going to have to share the land,” said Rice.  When they do, “there is going to be a renunciation of violence and a respect for each other,” Rice said.

Rice said the United States has, “essentially, a good relationship” with Russia.

The two countries do not agree about everything, “but we cooperate very well on a whole host of issues,” said Rice.

Additional information about the Morrow program and a transcript of Rice’s remarks are available on the State Department Web site.