Freedom of the press is something that I as an American, and many other countries, are extremely fortunate to enjoy. This freedom has held our government and industries accountable for their actions for the past few centuries and directly led to major positive changes in the way we do things.
My editorial yesterday noting that Russia’s imprisonment of freelance photographer Denis Sinyakov “crosses the line” has been met with a great mix of opinion, some of whom would shoot first, ask questions later if a Greenpeace activist boarded their vessel.
Let me be absolutely clear… I’m not here to defend Greenpeace. There are reasons why people in the maritime industry hold such strong opinions against them and I’m not here to try and defend their mission or their tactics.
What I am defending however, is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.”
This human right is not something that is well protected in Russia. In fact, this past summer for example, three members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot were arrested and convicted for “hooliganism on grounds of religious hatred” after they sang a protest song in Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral. According to Amnesty International, the punishment for such a crime in Russia includes a fine of up to USD $15,000 and three years imprisonment.
Mr. Sinyakov is a Russian freelance photographer, documenting activism in his country’s EEZ. Can you possibly imagine the public outcry if a Reuters photographer accompanied a similar demonstration off of an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, and was detained without bail for two months?
Freedom of the press is not something to be interfered with, and many have given their lives to defend this right.
Within the images captured by Mr. Sinyakov last week are snapshots of reality and truth. Some may argue that the photos are Greenpeace propaganda, however it’s impossible to argue that what is seen in the image did not happen.
In an email to me this morning, a gCaptain reader writes:
“It doesn’t matter that he didn’t participate, he knew about it – he did not try to stop it, he did not notify anyone that they would be committing any crimes, and he voluntarily went with them. Being a journalist does not give a person the right to “document” a crime, and do nothing – it makes him an accessory after the fact.”
I would argue that Mr. Sinyakov does have a right to be there, and to document everything. If Greenpeace were on a mission to kill or seriously hurt someone, that’s a different story, but they weren’t. The Greenpeace activists were essentially being a nuisance while setting the stage for a confrontation.
Putting this in simple terms:
When you were a kid on the playground and some kid started throwing little pebbles at you, did you bring a gun to school the next day and threaten the kid with deadly force?
And, if you did do that, would you be surprised if you got in trouble and perhaps ended up on the local news?
For those of you who call Greenpeace “terrorists” or “pirates,” I recommend you look up images of “9/11” and the “S/V Quest” hijacking. That’s what terrorism and piracy looks like. It’s far more scary than an unarmed Greenpeace activist wearing a drysuit and a climbing harness.
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