In 2021, our world suffered the deaths of 55 journalists. These men and women were murdered while they carried out their profoundly important profession, seeking the truth wherever it may be found, and at a cost to their families and their lives. During the last week of February 2022 two journalists were murdered in Mexico, with several of their compatriots murdered in 2022. The seeking of the truth has been a dangerous thing to do historically, and the enemies of truth, honesty and justice seem to be prevailing in their efforts to distort and manipulate or hide the reality of our world. At least 14 journalists have died since the Russian-Ukrainian war began.
We all know that healthy, professional news media are essential for the proper functioning of civil society and democracy at the local, regional, federal and international levels. In fact, UNESCO has declared World Press Freedom Day as an annual observance each May 3rd. The media usually are challenged by many factors, one of which is that they are businesses that need to make a profit.
Communities across Canada have lost more than 250 established news outlets due to closings or mergers between 2008 and 2022. The pressures of survival within this medium continue to grow, eliminating many historically important local newspapers, or replacing them as satellite division of greater corporations that dictate their message.
Many nations’ media outlets are state-controlled and operated as propaganda tools, issuing state-approved information to their populations. The truth or reality of these nations are often manipulated or hidden. The needs of the state often supersede those of their population.
Many nations recognize the need to protect our free media. Canada’s federal government acknowledged in its 2019 budget that “A strong and independent news media is crucial to a well-functioning democracy,” and many governments both local and state attempt to protect these precious institutions. In Canada, at least 29 municipalities – home to roughly 13 million people in nine provinces across Canada – have passed motions voicing support for journalism in aid of democracy.
In 2022 Reporters Without Borders RSF reported 65 Journalists were killed, 50 professional journalists, 7 citizen reporters and eight media workers doing their jobs, hunted down by corrupt politicians, the drug cartels, military death squads and criminals. 1035 professional journalists have been killed in the past 15 years.
The journalism of ideas, presenting what has been investigated, vented and thought out, and then presented logically, creatively to the world … precious. Journalism is not what Rebecca West claimed to be, “that journalism is the ability to meet the challenge of filling space,” but rather “when students/citizens learn to make sense of their world, they become the people who will transform it.” (John Spencer)
Journalists can be agents of social and political change, social mavericks or the very roots of democracy.