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Fear of the free press

Threat to freedom: stifling the free press should never be allowed

News organisations around the world are facing increasing challenges in an ocean of mass electronic equipment so complex that truth and fiction can mingle in the same pot, creating doubt and confusion to a degree where the free press, a cornerstone of democracy, can find itself under siege.

A new type of war has been declared against the free press in many jurisdictions, including the United States of America, which is considered the most powerful nation on Earth.

It amounts to a growing fear of the free press, especially when revealing truth that could be damaging to people in positions of power.

Journalists, who are committed to the professional ethics of getting at the truth without bias, are aware that their work can at times place them in the crosshairs of those who resent being questioned on anything. This is expected with dictatorial regimes, but it is more than disturbing when it happens in countries claiming to be democratic.

In America, under the present administration, the term “fake news” has been tossed about amid relentless attacks on journalists who have been described as the enemy of the people. All this because the free press dares to question Donald Trump over a number of issues with potential political and personal implications that could impact his presidency.

The free press should never be seen as a public relations tool for any administration.

The American constitution supports the right to free speech, and that includes the free press. With social media very active in pushing out information around the clock, true or false, the potential is high for inaccurate material to be accepted as gospel.

The task of the journalist will always be to get at truth before allowing a story to hit the headlines or the airwaves. In our modern world, this is a tremendous task in the face of constant attacks from the very people who should be upholding the principles of truth and decency.

Journalists know they are not perfect, and at times there will be mistakes. However, in most cases, the free press will hold themselves accountable when mistakes occur. Not the case in the political arena, where too many balk at being accountable.

What is increasingly alarming is that journalists are viewed as troublemakers by those in leadership positions; those who should know the rules and why truth is important if people are to be properly informed.

In many countries around the world, journalists are confronted with threats and much worse for doing their job, which is to reveal truth.

Recently, the White House barred a CNN reporter from attending an event because it felt her questioning of the President was too aggressive. News reporters have a tough job and a part of that job is to ask questions, even in noisy conditions when they have to raise their voices.

The free press in America by and large have taken a dim view of moves to silence them. The situation is causing concern to major news services, resulting in the publisher of The New York Times, A.G. Sulzberger, meeting Trump to discuss rhetoric coming out of the White House that could place journalists in danger.

Although Sulzberger reportedly informed the President that labelling journalists as the enemy of the people was divisive, Trump was unmoved and insisted on accusing the media of creating fake news designed to discredit his presidency. The world is watching what is turning out to be one of the most extraordinary administrations in the history of America.

Fear of the free press in any country usually means those in positions of power probably have something they would rather not have exposed. Without brave journalists who seek truth, at times at great risk to their lives, the people would be kept in darkness never knowing what is really happening. The greatest armour for justice and freedom for any country, large or small, is a strong free press operating under democratic principles of truth and decency. These days, truth itself is very much under siege in many parts of the world.

When the free press is stifled, anywhere, freedom begins to fade. No country that believes in true democracy should allow that to happen.