World Press Freedom Day is tomorrow and I've been trying to recall how I spent the day last year. I honestly can't remember and I think it is because it passed quietly. I was living in Azerbaijan - a place where journalists aren't really able to write or say anything that might be critical of the government.
World Press Freedom Day activities began today here in Timor-Leste and I couldn't help comparing the differences with Azerbaijan. Here in Dili, journalists began gathering around 9 a.m. at the street named Freedom of the Press Avenue -- where they then walked almost the entire length of it. In Azerbaijan, a gathering of this sort would have been banned. If a small group had gathered in Baku or any other Azeri town or city, the police would have shown up and asked everyone to move on.
Today's event in Timor-Leste drew about 75 journalists -- who distributed free bumper stickers and newspapers. The main reason for this particular event was to remind merchants and motorists that the street was named Freedom of the Press Avenue -- nine years ago. Some people are apparently unaware of that and continue to call it by its old name.
I joined the journalists on their walk along Freedom of the Press Avenue -- which begins near the city center and ends at the foot of the hills -- a distance of several kilometers. We didn't actually get to walk the entire distance. About 200 meters short of our goal -- local police stopped us and asked us to turnaround. They were very polite, but said we should have had a permit.