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Freedom House 2023 Annual Awards Ceremony
5 MINUTE READ
May 11, 2022

 

 

U.S. STATE OF DEPARTMENT

Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release

REMARKS

May 9, 2023

Secretary Antony J. Blinken

At Freedom House 2023 Annual Awards Ceremony

May 9, 2023

Conrad Hotel

Washington, D.C.

Millions of others are defending human rights on the frontlines, often at extraordinary personal risk.  People like Aida Ghajar, the first journalist to publish Mahsa Amini’s name after her death.  We’re honored that Aida is here to accept tonight’s second Freedom Award.  

For months now, Aida and hundreds of thousands of Iranian women, girls – with the support of many of their male compatriots – have demanded their basic freedoms be respected, even in the face of the most brutal repression. 

Now, we know unfettered access to the internet is essential for defending human rights and human freedoms. Aida Ghajar’s news outlet Iran Wire used the internet to receive critical information from inside Iran to do everything from documenting an accurate death toll from the repression of protests, to sharing live footage of the regime’s crackdown, to gathering and disseminating reporting by its network and citizen journalists. One Iranian journalist put it this way and explained of the protestors: “People don’t have weapons. They have mobile phones.  They have social media.”  These are among the strongest tools in democracy’s arsenal. 

So we are leading a global effort to try to advance – to protect and to advance internet freedom, particularly in areas where governments are most aggressively repressing it. 

When the Iranian regime tried to throttle internet access for most of its 80 million citizens, we issued a General License that enables technology firms to provide more digital services, hardware, and software to people in Iran, from access to cloud computing services to better tools to enhance their own online security and privacy; in other words, to be able to remain connected with each other and connected with the rest of the world.  

These tools have been essential in helping Iranians not only report on the regime’s abuses, but to tell their own stories and exercise their right to free expression.  We’re committed to expanding similar efforts around the world wherever necessary.