Tag Archives: Nelson Mandela

Westport Celebrates World Press Freedom Day

Alert “06880” reader Mark Friedman — an RTM representative, and founder of iheartfreedomofthepress.com — writes:

As a child of the 1970s, I watched Superman cartoons. He worked tirelessly for “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.”

Somewhere along the way (in law school?), I came to accept that people would not soon jump tall buildings in a single bound. But I also developed an abiding gratitude for the rights protected by the Constitution of the United States — in particular, our First Amendment freedoms.

World Press Freedom Day is tomorrow (Friday, May 3). Westport honors this day with a 3:30 p.m. event at Town Hall.

Mark Friedman, at Westport’s Memorial Day parade.

Westporter Bill Haas of the UN Association of SW CT will moderate a panel discussion considering the impact of money, politics and censorship on press freedom.  Participants include Congressman Jim Himes, Francesca Procaccini of Yale Law School, Michael DeDora of Committee to Protect Journalists, and myself.

Westport — known for its artistic influences and commitment to freedom of expression — strikes me as the perfect place for this event.

At a time when governments worldwide jail hundreds of journalists, and the US is ranked 48th worldwide in terms of press freedoms, Westport seems especially equipped to provide the intellectual and moral leadership, given its ethos of service — both locally and globally.

I encourage Westporters to attend Friday’s event. I also ask us everyone to consider Nelson Mandela’s reflection on press freedom:

A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy.  The press must be free from state interference.  It must have the economic strength to stand up to the blandishments of government officials.  It must have sufficient independence from vested interests to be bold and inquiring without fear or favor.

Westporters have a significant role to play in protecting Truth, Justice, and the American Way. And as a certain Marvel superhero reminds us, with great power comes great responsibility.

Remembering Nelson Mandela

As founder and president of FocalSport, a Southport-based sports and entertainment marketing company, Mark Noonan works with clients like the New York Mets, FIBA (the world governing body of basketball) and Major League Soccer.

But several years ago, while at US Soccer, the 1983 Staples High School graduate traveled to South Africa. The organization’s executive team was invited by their counterparts to visit and exchange best practices, as that nation sought to win the right to host the FIFA World Cup.

In Cape Town their hosts gave Noonan’s group a private tour of Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was jailed for 27  years.

This weekend, Noonan vividly pictures the cell Mandela was forced to live in. “How a man could endure such injustice without breaking, losing his dignity, or developing a deep bitterness for so long was, and is, truly humbling,” Noonan says.

Nelson Mandela, with the World Cup trophy. Partly in recognition of his efforts at uniting the country, South Africa was named host  of the 2010 tournament.

Nelson Mandela, with the World Cup trophy. Partly in recognition of his efforts at uniting the country, South Africa was named host of the 2010 tournament.

He also recalls “the attitude of the people I met toward race, especially when juxtaposed against the very real tensions that were prevalent in our country at the time (and sadly still exist today).”

Whether speaking with a black, white, Indian or mixed race person — and across varying economic backgrounds — the prevailing attitude was “we are now one and it is good. What was done in the past has been forgiven. We now live in a harmonious new South Africa,” Noonan says.

Importantly, he adds, “I didn’t get the sense that this was being said just to be politically correct with their American guests. It was real. There was not just pride in how they described their country, but also an ease and a really warm contentment. Like the movement’s leader, it lacked any kind of bitterness or hatred.

“I was simply awestruck how Mandela could have such a profound effect on the psyche of the nation, given our country’s long struggle with our own race issues.”

As the world mourns a truly inspirational leader, Westporters must have many stories of their own experiences with South Africa, or people they know from there. Please click “Comments” to share.