Burmese writer Ma Thida was imprisoned under the censorship laws in her home country. When the writer won the Norwegian Authors Union Freedom of Expression Prize, she decided not to attend the award ceremony. Instead, Thida sent a video note thanking the organisers. Here’s an excerpt from her note: “For me, losing the chance to be a writer in Burma is worse than being imprisoned. To keep freedom of expression, I have to create. In other words, freeing the words is more important for me than freeing myself.”
Living in a society where the right to express is curbed is akin to living in a prison. Thida’s words reflect the tense, hostile climate of her country, where a writer is imprisoned for exercising her basic freedom of expression. However, this is not a writer’s plight alone. Many individuals, at times, fear voicing their opinions. This is a reality in many parts of the world today.
The right to express has been fundamental to man since ages. When an individual expresses his opinions about issues around him, not only does it help in the development of the society, it also helps the individual’s growth. When an idea is put forth through a medium, it starts a conversation. Such conversations enrich and challenge the intellect, helping individuals grow and evolve. It is on this very premise that the fourth estate of democracy–the media– rests.
Ideas, as we know, run the world. They fuel action and create reality. For example, most countries today follow democracy, which was once just an idea. Today’s reality was a probably just an idea yesterday. Mediums like literature, media, and cinema are reservoirs of fresh ideas and perspectives. On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, Soulveda explores how these mediums facilitate freedom of expression, thereby ushering in waves of change in society.