Free to have stories told

This week The Shepparton News hosted a regional youth leadership program run through the Ethnic Council of Shepparton and District.

The young leaders are from culturally diverse backgrounds, many are refugees, all have a thirst for knowledge and a desire to make a genuine contribution to the community they now call home.

Their interest peaked when they were shown a slide that Reporters Without Borders produced illustrating the present state of media freedom across the world.

Many instantly recognised their homeland as one of those highlighted as having little freedom of the press. The gathering coincided with people across the world using social media to protest the detention of three men and three women in Iran.

They were arrested for posting a YouTube video of themselves dancing on Tehran rooftops to Pharrell Williams’ infectious song Happy. Similar videos have been made by young people across the world and for it to be seen as anything but harmless fun seemed absurd.

But this was conservative Iran and the women were not wearing their mandatory headscarves.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who has his own Twitter account, interjected in the debate by retweeting a post he had first made after his election: “#Happiness is our people’s right. We shouldn’t be too hard on behaviours caused by joy.’’

The dancers were freed, but may still face charges and the video director was apparently still in custody despite the president’s comment. The News encouraged the young cultural leaders to engage with the media, to share their problems and successes and to be the media themselves through things such as YouTube.

But the happy dancers’ case, more than than anything we could have said, probably illustrates why they should cherish the opportunity.


World Press Freedom Index – 2014 (Click to enlarge)


Article and image courtesy Shepparton News



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