On May 3, Ithaca City of Asylum (ICOA) joins human rights and free expression groups everywhere in recognizing World Press Freedom Day. This year’s theme is the free press in elections. Through events, social media campaigns, and other activities, we call attention not just to attacks or restrictions on people who engage in journalism, but to the vital role journalism plays in holding the powerful to account.
ICOA was founded to protect literary writers — poets, playwrights, and fiction writers — “whose works are suppressed, whose lives are threatened, whose cultures are vanishing, or whose languages are endangered.” This was not just a question of providing a quiet space for practicing artists; it was a public statement about the fundamental value of free expression.
Through the work and life stories of our first guests and residents, our community learned how unsettling the literary arts can be to regimes and other social forces that fear the power of words and ideas.
For many of those forces (not just governments, but religious, political, or social movements or other actors), journalism presents an even more direct threat, and they often lash out with alarming brutality. Our most recent residents reflect that reality.