The French organization Reporters sans frontières [Reporters without borders] (RSF) is now twenty years old, an opportunity to remember the relevance of the fight for freedom of the press across the world—respected by less than half of the 191 member states of the UN—and its universal value. Twenty photographers, men and women, including Maggie Steber (whose book of photographs of Haiti, Dancing on Fire, is one of the most beautiful I own), Sebastião Salgado, Jane Evelyn Atwood, Don McCullin and Patrick Robert, have offered their testimony for the anniversary of this state-approved NGO, which works with a network of partner associations on all continents and with over 110 correspondents across the world. “These are not only testimonies of war: many are testimonies of life […] which show, beyond continents and regimes, similar men and women, who always end up, for the simple reason that they are human beings, reacting to oppression”, in the view of the President of the French Senate, Christian Poncelet.
RSF intervenes several hundred times a year to denounce the banning of the media and the imprisonment or kidnapping of journalists, paying their medical costs or lawyer’s fees, or helping their families as well as taking in refugees.
Steber’s photograph “Girl in the shanty town of Rabato, Haiti, 1990” (above) is one of the photos included in this photographic testimonial. Steber’s vivid color photographs, as one reviewer of Dancing on Fire wrote, “communicate all too explicitly the tragic violence of Haiti. Unlike television documentaries in which images flash by, allowing us to glance away, these photographs capture critical moments for all time–of young men gunned down in the streets, of voodoo rituals, of anguished children at the funerals of their parents, of a nation destroying itself. Interspersed among the scenes of brutality and deprivation are glimpses of people who dare to smile faintly, including one particularly touching portrait of a peasant woman and her three children.”
For more information on the Reporters without Borders go to their website: www.rsf.org