On World Press Freedom Day in 2017 and moving forward, it’s critical we remember that not all heroes wear capes.
Yesterday, the world celebrated and mourned the journalists who sacrificed their lives in search of the truth. The truth, as with most that is virtuous, is often elusive and requires a dedication and willingness to unveiling what humanity – either purposefully or unintentionally – hides under the noise that so often distracts us.The truth does not often present itself to those not seeking it, and the duty of journalists is to either wipe off the layer of dust on potential stories that beg to be told, or in some cases, begin the arduous endeavor of digging them up from their burial grounds.
Journalists in many countries face oppressive governments that make active efforts to silence, exploit and — in some cases — even kill journalists deemed ‘dangerous.’
According to the Committee to Protect Journalism, 259 journalists were imprisoned last year, which is the highest number around the world yet. 1,200 journalists from countries including Mexico, Russia, Iraq and Syria have also been killed on the job in the past 25 years. Freedom House, a Washington-based nonprofit that publishes an annual report on world rankings of press freedom, published findings that suggest many countries may continue hostility toward the press in 2017 and onward.
While journalists at home face far less risk of life than those abroad, our country isn’t exempt from this trend of ire, either.
On Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus confirmed that the Trump administration has looked into changing libel laws to make news organizations easier to sue. Actions such as these erode the public’s confidence in the press but also set a precedent for legislative measures aimed at curtailing press freedoms.
Freedom House president Michael J Abramowitz has said publically that the vitriolic attacks Trump has made “undermine our country’s status as a model of press freedom.”
President Barack Obama also aggressively tried to bypass mainstream news outlets or made the process of accessing government records harder — under the Obama administration, there was a crackdown on federal officials who leaked information to the press.
While our country is one of the most press-friendly in the world, we have experienced a modest decline of press freedom in the past decade. President Trump’s efforts to potentially curtail press freedoms are less clandestine, but the decline of freedoms predates the Trump presidency. Partisanship aside, it’s our duty to remain heedful of the current administration’s attempts to disparage the press or curtail freedoms.
With the situation growing ever more dire for journalists abroad, and attitudes towards journalism outlets continuing to sour here domestically, it is important that we do not take for granted the sources we gather information from everyday. Whether it’s through a subscription, a routine check-in to your favorite news sites or even just an article in your Facebook feed, journalism is all around you, fueling your knowledge of our country and our planet.
Finally, remember those journalists who have lost their lives in the past years to oppressive and violent regimes, terrorists and extremists. Their sacrifices are not forgotten, and continue to inspire the journalists like us who are home, safe and comfortable. Those that give their lives for to keep the masses aware and informed are absolutely no less than heroes.
Stick up for journalism and defend the free press, because without them, there’s very little information for us in this increasingly chaotic and hard-to-understand world.
Otherwise, the truth remains concealed and ignorance is not bliss.