It’s been a terrible week for journalism. A fellow journalist and his partner were executed in Slovakia just days ago apparently because of an article that he was working on. The incident is a horrific reminder that it’s not only war zones that can be dangerous when trying to uncover unpleasant truths.
When the attack on Charlie Hebdo happened just three years ago, many rallied behind journalists around the world. Plenty, however, also said they went looking for it. That when you poke the hornets’ nest, you get stung. Putting my feelings about ridiculing one’s religious beliefs aside, free speech is an integral part of society.
We need to hear all sides – even the extreme ones – in order to be able to chart our own course. We need to be exposed to as many perspectives as possible, even if only to be reassured about our own convictions. Yes, it can be uncomfortable. But it is essential, nonetheless.
And there seems to be a global push against freedom of expression. Erdogan’s Turkey has just sentenced several journalists to life in prison. Trump has turned the phrase ‘fake news’ into an obsessive chorus. If you repeat something enough times, it can become the new reality. And the public’s trust in the media keeps dropping.
Our colleagues’ sacrifice should serve as a reminder of why we, journalists, set out on this path. As I have said so many times before, we are here to perform a public service. But we can’t do it alone. We need our readers to stand behind us. To want to always know more, to face the uncomfortable truths about the events of our time.
We need them to both support us and hold us accountable. Our power can be immense – with one paragraph, one photo, and even one tweet, a journalist can change the lives of thousands. It is our duty to do our best to be the champions of making the world a better place. And it starts with standing strong in the face of corrupt thugs, self-interested corporations or modern dictators.
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