The Meddler’s Itch
by Ronald Koven
Uncaptive Minds no. 23, 1993*
*See description below.
Ronald Koven, In Memoriam
Ronald (Rony) Koven, a seasoned journalist and advocate of media freedom, died on October 30, 2015, in Paris at the age of 80.
Previously a reporter for the Washington Post and the International Herald Tribune, Rony joined the World Press Freedom Committee in 1981 as its European Representative. In this capacity, he was a tireless defender of media freedom and free speech in the UN, CSCE/OSCE, EU, and many other institutions; he was an initiator of the Charter For a Free Press (in 1987); and, beginning in 1989, he undertook to help those in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union to build a free and vibrant press after communism and to fight against the increasing and many encroachments on the basic freedom of the media. The WPFC’s Handbook for Journalists, which he helped to write, was translated into many Eastern European languages, as was the Charter for a Free Press, which he endeavored to make the standard — unsuccessfully — of the region.
For 25 years, Rony worked with IDEE, many of its Centers for Pluralism partners, and other IDEE friends in former communist countries. He partnered with IDEE and other organizations to organize dozens of workshops for journalists in more than a dozen countries, aided directly many Centers for Pluralism partners to foster media pluralism, assisted IDEE’s Network of Independent Journalists, and remained always a partner for working in the region. IDEE co-directors Eric Chenoweth and Irena Lasota wrote in tribute,
Rony was a true defender of freedom of the media and free speech and a great friend of democrats, free journalists, independent media, and civic activists speaking truth to power. He taught us much about what it meant to be principled in defense of a freedom—and how dangerous it is to ever compromise that principle. He was always a welcome presence and a great companion at IDEE’s meetings of the Centers for Pluralism and the Network of Independent Journalists. A true Lion of an era. We will miss him.
The Meddler’s Itch
In 1993, Rony Koven helped IDEE’s Uncaptive Minds put together its Survey of Media Freedom (issue nos. 22 and 23). For that survey, Rony Koven wrote what remains one of the best articles on media freedom in Eastern Europe (and on media freedom generally), “The Meddler’s Itch.” At the end is included the Charter for a Free Press, first adopted in 1987 by journalists from 34 countries and endorsed by the UN Secretary-General, UNESCO, and free media organizations and journalists’ associations throughout the world. Rony Koven’s message of what is needed for a free media to thrive in post-totalitarian countries — to resist “the meddler’s itch” — remains vital (a message that can also be found in the section on independent media in IDEE’s special issue of Uncaptive Minds, “25 Years After 1989: Reflections on Unfinished Revolutions“). We have posted his article from the IDEE archives. The print editions of the two issues of Uncaptive Minds are available on request at email@example.com.