It takes more than courage
The recent Nobel Peace Prize that was awarded to two journalists for outstanding work in areas of grave danger drew applause from much of the world’s free press, and others who respect and cherish free speech.
The recipients, Maria Ressa, of the Philippines, and Dmitry Muratov, of Russia, operated in countries where it was not uncommon for journalists to encounter threats, assaults and even murder by those in power who resent exposure that could weaken their stranglehold on overall authority.
The awards, believed to be the first for journalists since 1935, is a powerful statement on how journalists in today’s truly dangerous world are like soldiers on the front line — only instead of carrying powerful rifles, they are armed with a pen and notepad.
Their commitment in seeking truth requires more than just courage. Over the years, many brave journalists have lost their lives in troublespots around the world. However, protecting truth is seen as so precious that other journalists are prepared to take up the banner of freedom and decency, no matter the cost.
That cost at times can be devastating for those in the profession who are fully aware that the powerful at times will stop at nothing to prevent exposure. Journalists are guided by an unwavering commitment to seek and expose truth despite those dangers.
Young people today looking forward to a career as journalists, can do so with pride that their chosen profession could be the last link between ensuring that true freedom, decency and democracy remain the cornerstones of any civilised society.
The reward for most journalists is in the knowledge that their work could help prevent some of those in powerful positions from abusing their authority in overseeing affairs of the people.
This is where the crunch is felt most in societies globally when those in responsible positions are seen as part of a problem instead of a solution. The unenviable task of journalists is to examine as close as possible every aspect of policies in order to report facts without fear or favour.
Reporters should always be mindful that they are not publicity agents for any group, political or otherwise. That may be a hard pill for some to swallow, but that is the foundation and guiding principle that makes journalism essential in helping to protect democracy.
Politicians in many countries, including Bermuda, have at times expressed negative views about journalists, who ask questions about sensitive issues, especially concerning the public purse — this despite reports by various auditors-general over the years, which raised questions over accountability. Many of them have taken heat for exposing the mismanagement of the public purse.
Journalists should never be labelled as troublemakers simply for asking questions that create discomfort to those who should have answers. It is not the task of journalists to determine guilt or innocence, but only to report facts, no matter how sensitive the subject.
When big incidents occur anywhere that involve injury and loss of life, be it a large apartment complex collapse or when a nation’s democracy is seriously threatened by an angry out-of-control mob, journalists must remain steady, focused and not be afraid to ask tough questions in search of truth.
It is never an easy task because they, too, are often targeted even by those who should be defending democracy.
An incensed extremist group of radicals attacked the Capitol Building in Washington on January 6, leaving five dead and many wounded. Journalists inquiring as to how America came so close to having the centre of its administration shattered have questioned how a former president who encouraged the assault with words heard around the world is to be held accountable.
Of course, with the matter very much under investigation, journalists are watching every development closely, with the knowledge that under the nation’s Constitution, no one is above the law. That remains to be seen.
With the Covid-19 pandemic still very much an issue with countries around the world, Bermuda included, the desperate attempt continues to vaccinate as many as possible to halt a disease still claiming lives and wrecking economies. Journalists worldwide gathering facts from the medical profession, urging everyone to be vaccinated, have come under fire from those opposed to getting a jab that could save their lives.
Most of us have heard tragic stories of people who waited too long. Let’s hope Bermuda can move away from that posture in order to reach a safer level of protection from Covid-19.
A golden moment for Bermuda to build on was the welcome the island gave to Flora Duffy, as thousands lined the streets to show their appreciation and support for capturing a gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics, competing against the world’s best. A bright moment amid so many dark days the island has experienced from Covid-19.
There are still many concerns in a troubled world, which include climate change, families suffering from food shortages, and violent crime. In the illegal drug world, dictatorial regimes that thrive on the power of the gun deeply resent the probing eyes of journalists.
The world is in need of more brave journalists who are willing to defend truth and freedom, even at great risk, knowing what they do is crucial in helping to make the world a better place.