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Without the free press, democracy dies

There will always be ferocious opponents to the free press, especially when their task of revealing truths runs counter to objectives of some who prefer a steamroller approach in crushing efforts to put the journalism microscope on various subjects that raise questions about accountability and transparency on matters of public concern.

Throughout the ages, the free press has generally accepted that what they do places them in the crosshairs of those who feel the press exist to discredit or to tear down those who choose to operate by a different set of rules.

Attacking the free press may be music to the ears of those who resent being questioned on sensitive matters, but without the free press, democracy itself becomes an endangered species and freedom as we know it will begin to fade. History has seen many dictators take that route with disastrous results because freedom will always be a cherished quality of life with those who believe in decency and human dignity.

In most cases, those who fear and hate the press usually have something they would rather not be exposed because it could have a damaging effect on an image they want to preserve.

The job of the press is not to prosecute or to defend, but to reveal facts irrespective of which side they support.

During my early years in journalism for this newspaper, I recall one morning how the editor-in-chief strolled in and informed the duty editor to be sure to have a reporter in traffic court that day because he had to appear on a traffic offence. He wanted the same treatment everyone else gets, which is what journalism is really about.

We all know the press are not without stumbles in the responsibility of gathering the truth to keep people properly informed, and that is to be expected since nothing or no one is perfect. There are even times when the press have to focus keeping standards high.

However the positive role the press play in protecting freedom far outweighs any slips that occur along the way. Many reporters down through the years have paid the ultimate price for endeavouring to perform their duties without bias in search of truth — two more died this week.

One would have to be living on a different planet not be aware that the campaign in the United States to elect a new president has reached new lows in terms of vicious and insulting remarks — not only against opposing candidates, but also against the press who must cover events as they occur. No need to call names, but when a candidate refers to members of the press as sleazy for asking questions that are part of their job, alarm bells should sound for journalists worldwide. No one should ever consider themselves so powerful that they have licence to make insulting remarks or to demean others who have an opposing view, without crossing the line of common decency and respect.

The American people will have to make the final judgment on what standards they feel the highest office in the land requires when they take to the polls this year. There are many areas of concern, including the fight against terrorism.

The anti-terror drive will need leadership of the highest quality and, with the US being perhaps the most powerful nation on Earth, there is no room for a guessing game over who is best suited to be in the driver's seat.

The free press must pursue relentlessly every twist and turn generated by political machinery, as the battle for the White House gets even more tense, with accusations and counteraccusations flowing like a river burst. As the world watches, and that includes Bermuda, most people are hoping that the free press will be respected and that in the end candidates will raise the flag of reason and good judgment as the election draws near.

Democracy should never be a victim in the quest to lead anywhere on Earth.

The free press must be vigilant in helping to protect basic freedoms, no matter the price. Otherwise, democracy itself would be doomed.

David Gilkey, a veteran news photographer and video editor for National Public Radio photographer, at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan. Gilkey was killed on assignment. (Michael M. Phillips/The Wall Street Journal/AP)

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Published June 08, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated June 08, 2016 at 7:29 am)

Without the free press, democracy dies

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