Home Commentary Journalists and truth under threat

Journalists and truth under threat

Many professional journalists, while trying to report the news, have been arrested, jailed, and killed

A Japanese journalist has been arrested and held in prison in Myanmar for reporting the news. He was accused of reporting “fake news” by the military junta.

The killings in the country continue and are being reported by a new generation of volunteer journalists, who are often in the thick of the demonstrations.

In Zimbabwe, two Spanish journalists — David Beriain and cameraman Roberto Fraile — were killed in an ambush in the tri-border Sahel Zone of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. They were on the way to a national park where poachers and armed groups were reporteldy killing elephants and rhinos.

Life for professional journalists continues to be precarious. Many countries have introduced draconian anti-terrorist laws and media restrictions that consider criticism of the government an act of subversion or even terrorism.

Many professional journalists, while trying to report the news, have been arrested, jailed, and killed.

In 2015, there were 73 journalists killed. In 2018, as many as 56 were killed. In 2019, there were 26 killed. In 2020, another 32 killed, and so far in 2021, there have been five killed, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

It is a shocking record of violent attack on the free press. Many journalists have been murdered for reporting about corruption among politicians and criminal gangs. Others were caught in the crossfire in war zones.

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That is not all. Hundreds have been jailed. Since 2020, there are already 274 journalists in jails around the world. Many are in prisons in China and Turkey. There are 30 plus journalists jailed in each of these countries that are among the most severe violators of human rights and free speech.

Many more journalists are imprisoned in India, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, and Syria. In Belarus, 10 are in prison for reporting on demonstrations.

In Myanmar, more than 700 people have been shot to death for reporting police and military violence.

Technology has made reporting more efficient and effective, but in conflict zones, the danger remains. We see in countries like the United States reporters reporting by video, sometimes live, acts of police brutality.

The life and work of journalists used to be most respected. It’s a profession full of adventure and excitement. Journalists were mostly professionally trained in schools of journalism and universities. They worked on every kind of news in every sphere of public and private life.

International journalists were revered for reporting from war-torn and disaster-prone regions. The most ambitious were after the next big scoop, exposing crime and corruption, reporting wars and conflicts, and politics and human rights issues.

Those days of the protected member of the press are no more. They are now targeted to be silenced and killed.

Reporting the news in an honest and truthful manner was the code of conduct in years past. They are long gone since the onslaught of attacks against the media and journalists over the internet.

Around the world, the attacks have become disgusting and undermine the credibility of a free press. They are branded purveyors of “fake news.”

It is a common practice by politicians, police, security officials and military to silence the free press.

Former US president Donald Trump went further and openly ridiculed and insulted journalists. He called all reporting “fake news” if it is critical of him. He was so successful at this that “fake news” became the cry of every politician, tyrant, killer dictator, business tycoon who has something to hide. Regimes passed laws that brand critical reporting as communist propaganda and file baseless charges against journalists.

They can gag truthful reporters and honest critics through organized social media trolls. These are used by the enemies of truth, allowing the spread of propaganda, personal attacks, false news and hate speech.

For truth and freedom of the press to be respected and to flourish, false news, hate speech, and the proliferation of propaganda on the internet must be stopped.

Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sex abuse. The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of LiCAS.news.

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