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By the Numbers: Freedom of the Press

An image of Minecraft's Uncensored Library.
An image of the Uncensored Library, an online repository of banned reporting available within the video game Minecraft. Screenshot: Reporters Without Borders.

Number of years World Press Freedom Day has been observed. In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly deemed May 3 a day to honor, evaluate, and defend freedom of the press around the world, as well as pay tribute to journalists who have died as a result of their work.

Number of boxes in the Commission on Freedom of the Press records, archived at University of Chicago Library. The commission convened from 1944 to 1946 to evaluate the “freedom, function, and responsibilities” of mass media at a time of heavy criticism for the industry. It released its findings in the 1947 report A Free and Responsible Press.

Number of “A Free Press: Cornerstone of Democracy” talks hosted by Pima County (Ariz.) Public Library in October 2022. The program was billed as a space where patrons could discuss their thoughts on the media’s role in present-day society.

12.5 million
Number of Minecraft blocks it took to create the Uncensored Library. The online repository, spearheaded in 2020 by Reporters Without Borders, contains banned reporting from international journalists who have been punished or killed for their work. Republishing the materials in the videogame Minecraft exploits a loophole in censorship laws, according to the Uncensored Library website.

Year Banned Books Week was launched. The annual event, organized by the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom, addresses the challenges to books in libraries, schools, and bookstores, underscoring the need for free access to information and literature. This year, Banned Books Week is Oct. 1–7.

Year of the oldest newspapers in the Library of Congress’s (LC) US newspaper collection. Boasting the most comprehensive newspaper collection in the world with more than 9,000 titles, LC has publications from every state and territory. Its Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room dates to 1867, when it was opened to keep members of Congress informed. It was later opened to scholars in 1900.

Number of propositions outlined in ALA’s Freedom to Read statement. Originally issued in 1953 in partnership with the Association of American Publishers, and last amended in 2004, the statement provides guidance to librarians and publishers on how to preserve the freedom to publish and circulate media. It asserts that “what people read is deeply important; that ideas can be dangerous; but that the suppression of ideas is fatal to a democratic society. Freedom itself is a dangerous way of life, but it is ours.”

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