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The Editor Speaks: Freedom of the press

colin-wilsonweb2One of our stories today is headlined “Panama condemned for jailing journalist on ‘baseless’ charges”.

Journalist being jailed for telling the truth and exposing corruption is becoming the norm now.

Once upon a time even Dictators were frightened of the press and jailing a journalist, especially someone of the caliber of Dutch journalist Okke Ornstein, was something they wouldn’t do because the press had great power.

The press was united and they would be together in their condemnation. “The pen is mightier than the sword”. The press really could bring down governments.

There was then ‘Freedom of the press’ because they were free to write the truth.

That has changed.

In 2005 alone, more than 500 publishers and journalists were arrested and jailed, because they were seen as threats. Some may have reported on government corruption, the absence of political pluralism or human rights; others may have linked criminal activity to influential personalities.

Media freedom also faces severe pressures across the world. Last year, UNESCO condemned the killing of 62 journalists who died as a result of their work. More online journalists, including bloggers, are being harassed, attacked, and killed for their work.

So what is the problem? What has happened?

As a body journalists are not united anymore. They report to a company that has their own agenda – the main one being making money.

There was once a code that journalists reported facts and they left their personal feelings out of their stories. “The facts, ma’am. Nothing but the facts.”

What a terrible shame that doesn’t happen now. Even here in the Cayman Islands I can see it. And I am not talking about Editorials. They are an opinion.

When you are living on a small island it is easy for a journalist and even members of the public to see the slant of a story. And the journalism here is much better than elsewhere.

I adore reading. I do it all the time. That and listening to music is what I live for.

The public doesn’t have to rely on the media websites anymore. There is social media. And we are bombarded with it.

Even worse we have the Fake News. In a recent study in the US it was found that the majority of college students could not distinguish real news from fake news.

Therefore, there are many reasons for the “Freedom of the Press” being not free anymore and everyone of us is to blame for putting it to death.

In 1853 Alexis de Tocqueville, French author of Democracy in America, wrote ”In the countries in which the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people ostensibly prevails, the censorship of the press is not only dangerous, but it is absurd. When the right of every citizen to cooperate in the government of society is acknowledged, every citizen must be presumed to possess the power of discriminating between the different opinions of his contemporaries, and of appreciating the different facts from which inferences may be drawn.”

In 1916 the great broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite wrote: “A democracy ceases to be a democracy if its citizens do not participate in its governance. To participate intelligently, they must know what their government has done, is doing and plans to do in their name. Whenever any hindrance, no matter what its name, is placed in the way of this information, a democracy is weakened, and its future endangered. This is the meaning of freedom of press. It is not just important to democracy, it is democracy.”

What would he have said about journalism reporting of the Trump/Clinton election? No wonder there are still demonstrations going on over the result and certain news outlets and reporters fanning the flames. They don’t care about democracy. It is just their own personal point of view that matters. And they are smiling at what they have been able to create. Chaos and hate.

And the so called terrorists say “thank you”. You are doing a wonderful job for us.

When the general public in 2016 cannot tell the difference between Fake News and True News it is because we are suspicious of even True News.

And because of that we have given up part of our freedom.

And one of our journalists colleagues is locked up for really telling the truth. How many give a damn?


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