Renowned journalist Zeinab Badawi in an exclusive interview with The Oslo Times International
Zeinab Badawi is a Sudan born British journalist who is known the World over as BBC’s World News presenter. Before joining the BBC she had worked for ITV Morning News (now known as ITV News at 5:30) and co-presented the Channel 4 News with Jon Snow. Badawi has also worked as the researcher and broadcast journalist for Yorkshire TV. She has been an adviser to the Foreign Policy Centre and is a Council Member of the Overseas Development Institute. She is also a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery and the British Council.
This talented journalist, in an exclusive interview with The Oslo Times International News Network’s Editor-in-Chief, Hatef Mokhtar, spoke about the human rights and women’s rights and freedom of expression.
Excerpts below give us an insight into the interesting talk that followed:
It is wonderful to have you with us today, and though we have watched you on TV we would like to know about you from you, so can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born in Sudan, and my father was involved in pre-independence politics in Sudan but then he hit the road as a journalist and moved to United Kingdom when I was 2 years of age. But I have always hung on to the fact that I was born under an African sun. I have a great attachment for the continent and also the Arab and Muslim World. Because being Sudanese it meant that we faced both directions, we were not only Saharan Africans but also a part of the Arab World. So for e.g. I always say that Arabic is my mother tongue but English is my first language. I think my background meant that I was brought up with a very international view of the World.
We normally ask all our guests this question, what do human rights mean to you?
Human rights are the corner stone of democracy, human rights are universal. I don’t believe in the kind of relative arguments about human rights and that you have to somehow dilute them to take into account cultural, practices or traditions. Human rights are women’s rights, human rights are set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by all members of the United Nations. I think it owns a good framework, a good blueprint for the international community, all countries should adhere to those rights. And I think that countries, governments where you have high observance of human rights by an large are the most successful most prosperous and the most happy. And I would say that in particular when we look at human rights, I agree with what Hilllary Clinton said many years ago in Beijing Womens conference, that women’s rights are human rights. And I think that if we observe the rights of women, you would find that actually human rights is a whole have been adhered to.
My next question to you is regarding freedom of expression, how you can see the media and freedom of expression in Africa, now-a-days.
I think that freedom of speech, freedom of expression is critical. It is a cornerstone of democratic society and the 19th Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which is about freedom of expression also has another part to it, which people often forget, which is free flow of information and this is where the internet has transformed freedom of expression for the good because the free flow of information as a result of internet, social media networks and so on so called, means it is much harder to suppress freedom of expression. So, now if atrocities take place or if there are violation of human rights in countries, you would find that somebody somewhere has a mobile phone who has managed to record it. It means if there is a civil war situation like the terrible situation in Syria somebody will have a mobile phone who they will be able expose certain atrocities. So, I think that freedom of expression has been very well served by the internet and the proliferation of the mobile phones and that is the trend which is continuing and going upward.
There are too many journalists in prison today in many dictatorial and totalitarian regimes like Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and in a few African countries. What’s your message for those dictatorial regimes?
I think that what I would say is that if you deny people freedom of speech, it means you are denying them so much else, it is a very good parameter of how effective, how open a government is, so the absence of freedom of expression, the locking of journalists is something the government does with huge risk to their reputation. And reputational risk is very dangerous, when governments everywhere are trying to attract foreign direct investments and so on. So, locking up journalists is really really harmful to a country’s reputation because the international media and NGOs like Amnesty International will focus on these cases and they will really publicize this and my message to governments that continue to do that is, that is not good for your reputations, that is not good for your economic development and if you are standing in the international community, so don’t don’t.
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