Melissa Mahtani, Journalist, Senior Producer | USA
Melissa Mahtani is an Emmy-nominated Senior Producer and Reporter for CNN’s award-winning digital team where she produces, writes and creates content across all platforms since 2012. Mahtani has interviewed change-makers across the globe such as Vladimir Kara-Murza from Russia, Masih Alinejad from Iran, Afghanistan’s youngest Mayor Zarifa Ghafari and the first lady of Namibia as well as celebrities like Naomi Campbell, Kristin Davis, Adwoa Aboah and Lin-Manuel Miranda. In addition to writing breaking news stories and feature articles, Mahtani currently reports for CNN’s award-winning gender focused “As Equals” team, hosting and moderating events for wider impact and engagement. She also plays a key role in designing the social strategy around special events including bespoke CNN Town Halls, CNN Heroes and coverage from the United Nations General Assembly.
|Event Title: SDGs Conference 2023||Date: Sept 20, 2023|
Freedom cannot be taken for granted.
The idea of democracy quite literally means rule by the people, where a population gets to decide what decisions are made through an elected, represented government. Democracy can only exist when there are free and fair, transparent elections, accountability, a pluralistic system of political parties, freedom of expression, an independent judiciary, and respect for human rights. These democratic values do not vanish in an instant; but as the Israeli Supreme Court justice indicated: democracy dies in a series of small steps.
Steps such as stifling opposition candidates, silencing the media, laws making it harder for certain types of people to vote, or rigging voting machines. Those things sound like they would be easy to see.
But when a population can not distinguish between what is true or false due to disinformation campaigns, technology that is manipulated, or a justice system that is slowly weaponized, how can one even see the line where democracy ends and autocracy begins?
This is what we are witnessing in many countries around the world. A slow eradication of democratic values, in countries once cherished as stalwarts of freedom like here in America, and others from South Africa to India and Israel. Even in countries that are known as autocracies, like China, Venezuela, and Russia, we are seeing their leaders take more ruthless actions and more worryingly, work more closely together to build and strengthen global undemocratic factions that make it harder to break through.
Thinking about solutions is not an abstract thought or discussion that relates to a planet in outer space. This is our world. For those of us who do live and work in democracies, what can we do to strengthen them? How can we shine a light on the injustices we see in other countries? Every one of us has power. Power to shape the communities and world that we want to live in, and more importantly, the kind of world we want to leave to future generations.
As Nelson Mandela famously said in 1999, “Freedom can never be taken for granted. Every generation must safeguard it and extend it”. It is up to each and every one of us to do our part to make sure freedom and democracy are rights that we enjoy, strengthen, and sustain.