Word Press Freedom Day began in 1993 but after the rising attacks on journalists means a more focused goal of freedom. Reporting injustice does not come without cost.
World Press Freedom Day manages to highlight the essential functions in holding global citizens accountable through journalism. Journalism is not defined by the big names like Walter Cronkite or Diane Sawyer, either.
On May 1, ahead of the May 3 celebrations, President Obama chatted with persecuted journalists from around the world. "Journalists give all of us as citizens the chance to know the truth about our countries, ourselves, our governments." Adding that doing so "makes us stronger, it gives voice to the voiceless, it exposes injustice, and holds leaders like me accountable."
Accountability is vital for a strong, resilient nation to survive. While he feels that "free press is under attack by governments that want to avoid the truth," the president must remember that not all press are created equally. Last summer, the press faced heavy criticism in Ferguson for reporting the uprising of a community demanding justice and answers. And continue to face aversion by many in law enforcement and government bodies.
However, that does not make him wrong, either. "Journalists are harassed, sometimes even killed, independent outlets are shut down, dissent is silence, and freedom of expression is stifled."
And those deaths are on the minds of the journalism community as the day is underway. Sarah Jones envisioned a moment of silence and respect for journalists killed for reporting the truth in an unstable situation. Remembering Fallen Journalists calls for a moment of silence between 6PM and 9PM local time with a simple #remembering.
Journalism doesn't necessitate a degree or pedigree from a known agency. Citizen journalists, local journalists, national journalists tell the world about the injustices happening and often face imprisonment or death for the task.
Reporters without Borders notes that in 2015 alone: 24 journalists have been killed, 158 imprisoned, and 176 netizens imprisoned. The numbers are only a fraction since 69 journalists were killed during 2014. The numbers are overwhelming and journalists are speaking out on the dangers.
Last year, three Al Jazeera's journalists were convicted of helping the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
While Australian Peter Greste escaped through social and government pressure, Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy remained in custody but faced a new trial. In January, the Court of Cassation found the lower court's verdict to untrue and false, according to Al Jazeera. Eventually granting Mohamed and Fahmy bail offered freedom after 400 days behind bars.
Greste's response to the retrial was hopefully reserved as he begins "looking forward to the moment when the court finally recognizes that there is absolutely no basis to the allegations.” Saying the Cassation court found "the prosecution had failed to find enough evidence to support the charges in the first place. And declaring when the court dismisses all charges "we will finally be able to celebrate without restraint."
Around the world, celebrations and demonstrations lasted throughout the day. And many of the statements focused on the endangering livelihood of journalists.
Hurriyet Daily News in Turkey described a journalist group composed of several unions marching through Istanbul. In a statement before the march, the group echoed President Obama’s claim of vitality.
“We say ‘freedom is the oxygen of journalism, and free journalism is the assurance of democracy.’ We emphasize that our struggle for freedom of the press is given not only for one profession, but also for the struggle of every citizen who misses a free and democratic Turkey.”
Top UN officials claim that quality journalism, thorough research, and honest observation “enables citizens to make informed decisions about their society's development” through exposure to “injustice, corruption, and the abuse of power.” Informed citizens are able to reshape negative parts of a society through holding those in charge accountable.
This year Ban Ki-moon, Irina Bokova and Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein all believe that one of the most underrepresented demographics are women. Twenty years after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the fact remains that “men and women must participate equally in making and sharing the news.”
BBC reports that Amberin Zaman, who spoke about the Instanbul’s Gezi Park protests in 2013 received sexual, violent, and abusive tweets. Graphic messages included forcibly sitting on "a broken wine bottle” and a constant threat of rape and sexual violence. Working as the Turkey correspondent for the Economist and daily columnist on Turkey’s daily paper Taraf, she later faced an increase of attacks after the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
And she’s not alone. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's Representative on the Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, says the rise is a “global phenomenon growing at a rapid pace.” Journalists face harassment and violent threats as social media allows for a user base to communicate with press.
But is that okay? Of course not. If a woman reports on more challenging topics, such as crime, politics, or cultural limitations, then the rate of harassment increases.
Journalism, reporting on the news, offers a look into the views of many communities and helps to solidify the truths. Death, banishment or imprisonment offer no solution to the corruption. Instead corruption continues to grow and the world loses out on social reformation.
In order to face a more balance, more democratic globe, the world needs to embrace the freedom of press. With freedom comes responsibility; yet without freedom to speak out, the world lays in stagnation.
Sources: Al Jazeera, CBS News, Hurriyet Daily News, Remembering Fallen Journalists, Reporters without Borders, United Nations