Review: Speaking Truth to Power
Young Ambassador Emma Seager reviews the Harriet Martineau Lecture 2017

Our Young Ambassador Emma Seager, from Attleborough Academy, reviews ‘The Harriet Martineau Lecture: Speaking Truth to Power’ at Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2017.

The Adnams Spiegeltent was in awe as Anabel Hernández and Lydia Cacho spoke at this year’s Harriet Martineau Lecture. Together they have worked to expose the corruption of Mexico’s government; a government that enables and endorses the trafficking of narcotics, women, and children; a government that violently strives to conceal this. It was striking, the risk these journalists were taking to speak truth about a country where approximately 120 people have been killed for doing the same.

Having devoted thirteen years to the investigation of Mexican drug cartels, Hernández blazed with emotion. A jaw-dropping account of the journalists murdered for unveiling the dark underbelly of Mexican politics. At this, I felt ashamed of our own media. We have the liberty of free speech: Britain’s journalists do not fear for their lives. As Mexico’s journalists are silenced, truth dies with them. An attack on truth is an attack on society. Why do we not wield the freedom of our press to shield those whose freedom has been taken?

Hernández blazed with emotion

Cacho, a feminist who has ardently fought against sexual abuse of women and children, was an inspiration in her assertion of women’s rights. She quoted Rupi Kaur: ‘Do not look for healing at the feet of those who broke you’, symbolic of her ambition. Women cannot find sanctuary in a society engineered for their maltreatment – we must force society to change. As Cacho learned to be fearless from the women who preceded her, I, on hearing her speech found it easy to feel fearless too.

Hearing these women speak with such candour was empowering, especially given the ramifications they’d face in their home country. Enlightening a British audience of the violence and suffering in Mexico was an act of bravery. What we, who are privileged to be free from such immediate danger, decide to do with that knowledge is critical.

Our Young Ambassador programme, launched in 2016, aims for every school in Norfolk to have a UNESCO City of Literature champion. These ambassadors share a love of reading, writing and books in their schools and local communities and spread the word of Norwich as England’s first UNESCO City of Literature.

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