I had planned that my first blog post on this site should probably cover some easy-going topic, like where to enjoy that perfect glass of Chianti in Milan. Then two news items hit me, one from Saudi-Arabia and the other from Turkey. I thought – here I am, and I could basically write about anything without being afraid of the consequences. But that's not the case everywhere and I wanted to remind myself that freedom of inquiry and free speech should never be taken for granted.
Saudi-Arabia is known for numerous human rights violations. They are persecuting anybody who writes something that officials deem inappropriate. In 2014 blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to ten years of imprisonment and one thousand (1.000) lashes for his blog writings. Fortunately, international pressure may actually have resulted in something good, because the Swiss newspaper La Liberté reported that Badawi's sentence is suspended. Let's hope that's true. It doesn't however change the fact that numerous other Saudi bloggers and writers are sitting in jail with scarred backs for extremely questionable reasons.
Turkey is another country where you have to be very careful what you write about. According to Hürriyet Daily News, the reporter Ertuğrul Özkök faces up to five years in prison for "insulting" President Erdoğan. That's outrageous. The EU must stand firm on human right's issues when the membership negotiations with Turkey are reopened.
How about Finland and Italy? Well, Finland is okay along with the rest of the Nordic countries, at least if you look at the World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders. I'm pretty sure many in Finland don't even know that Finland is ranked as number one on that index. Italy on the other hand has still a way to go, since the ranking is as low as 73. Let's see what happens when I write my first blog post on Berlusconi or the Vatican.