Ursula Owen: We must fight terror, but still cherish freedom

From a speech by the editor-in-chief of Index on Censorship, at its annual awards
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The Independent Online

In a world where the war on terrorism dominates so much of our political life, there are people who are convinced that civil liberties must take second place to security. Overturning the rule of law and suspending human rights may be tempting, but must be resisted. We must fight terror but we must continue to cherish freedom.

As ever, there have been countless brave people this year who have refused to let political pressure, social or religious ostracism, jail, torture, exile or death prevent them from taking a stand. We need these people; they make democracies possible and strengthen human rights.

Journalists continue to be targeted in many parts of the world for doing their job. In 2003 a total of 36 were killed worldwide, a large increase over 2002. Sadly, two of our shortlisted journalists, Kaveh Golestan and James Miller, are among that number. Colombia remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world, as Ines Pena, also on the shortlist, can testify. And in a list of 136 journalists imprisoned last year, Cuba and China come out as the leading jailers. Satyendra Kumar Dubey protested about corruption he on construction sites in India, and was killed for it.

Here at Index, we continually reassess and redefine what we are fighting for, keeping pace with new forms of censorship and silencing in a rapidly changing world. But nothing that has happened in the past two and a half years has changed our fundamental view that free expression is the basis of all other human rights, and, without it, all other human rights - and so our security - are at risk.

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