Targeting journalists is an attempt to kill freedom
It may not have dominated the headlines, but the recent shooting death of a journalist in the Mexican city of Chihuahua clearly showed the danger that reporters face in some parts of the world while carrying out their responsibilities, which include revealing truths and keeping people informed.
Although journalists lose their lives the world over, especially in areas of sustained conflict such as the Middle East and parts of Africa, each incident weakens the global free press, who will always be a key tenet in holding leaders and those in authority accountable when it comes to whether people are treated according to international laws of decency, freedom and respect.
Sadly in Mexico, where organised crime is deeply entrenched in certain sections, almost 40 journalists have paid with their lives since 1992. But that has not stopped them from the task of seeking truth and facts on any matter concerning the daily lives of the people. Of course, targeting journalists is a known practice of powerful drug gangs who detest any probing light that could alert government authorities about their activities, which usually include drug trafficking and murder.
The latest victim among journalists was identified as Miroslava Breach, a 54-year-old mother of three who reported on organised crime and corruption for La Jornada, the national newspaper. She was fatally shot eight times at close range on March 23, upon leaving home to take her child to school. The shooter left a sign at the crime scene, which read, according to police, “for being a loudmouth”.
With so much happening in the world today — terrorism in London, mass killings in Syria and Iraq, millions starving in parts of Africa — the plight of journalists to let the world know the truth is often overlooked.
Perhaps this why in America, Donald Trump did not score many brownie points when he recently referred to members of the media as the enemy of the people. Such a remark is taken extremely serious by the free press because dictators thrive only when the free press is silenced. Highly professional journalists are needed these days more than ever. This is because cyberspace technology allows reams of information to flow globally without any checks for accuracy. Wild rumours and misinformation get bungled in the process and finding truth at times is truly a needle and a haystack for the best of reporters.
Without trained professionals to sift through the never-ending stream of material clouding the electronic skies, many stories would be accepted as fact simply because they are out there. The new American administration is struggling at present to regain its footing after Trump’s attempt to repeal Obamacare crumbled. Some members of the President’s own party declined to support a questionable health Bill and the GOP were left in a tizzy as Trump encountered his first significant roadblock in Washington.
This is happening against a backdrop of FBI investigations into the role that Russia is alleged to have played in the election — making it even more difficult for Trump to focus on a wide range of issues facing the nation. Alert journalists from various television networks and major newspapers in the country were kept busy 24/7 in trying to keep people informed, as politicians on both sides were in no mood to pull punches. The Democrats were elated that “Trumpcare” was rejected, at least for the moment, while Republicans were not enjoying the aftermath of a stunning political defeat.
What about the role of journalists in all this? They have a responsibility to follow events as they occur, no matter how sensitive, and they must do this in a professional manner. The President could be learning that there is a difference between what is said on the campaign trail and what happens once you take that seat in the Oval Office.
Meanwhile, the Russian Government is confronted with massive demonstrations protesting corruption in the Putin Administration. Without brave reporters, the world would not see the hardline action by police to halt growing resentment against what many feel is abuse of power by Russian authorities. In recent years, there have been numerous reports of Russian journalists being killed for inquiring into matters that the Government preferred to keep silent.
The free world should salute journalists who continue the difficult job of telling the truth in the interest of protecting democracy.
We have a small population in Bermuda, but nevertheless opinion differences run deep, and our journalists are kept busy trying to keep the public informed on sensitive matters, which can be more than challenging at times.
The bottom line is that whenever journalists are targeted for doing their job, also under attack is freedom and the right for the public to know the truth.
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