Since 1993, the United Nations has declared World Press Freedom Day to be commemorated on May 3. For too many people, the press has become an institution that cannot be trusted. Instead of celebrating the press and reporters who report the news, many want to tear it down, if not suppress it.
World Press Freedom Day is a good time to remember the impact a free press has on our lives.
There are many reasons why a free press is vitally important, but one only has to look at the war between Russia and Ukraine to see the consequences of what can happen when journalism is stifled. In Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the press is controlled by the government and its citizens are fed a constant diet of lies about why the invasion of Ukraine was staged, how it is carried out and who wins and who loses.
Innocent people, including many children, are being killed. Hospitals are bombed. And yet, there are few negative reactions in Russia, because none of this is reported in the newspapers. In fact, it is denied.
One of the main roles of a free press is to investigate those in power, especially the government, and find out what is really going on, regardless of the political fallout. Without a free press, democracy is impossible.
Many Americans take a free press for granted. But there’s a reason this year’s theme for World Press Freedom Day is “Journalism Under Siege”. Because it is, and not just in Russia.
At the local level, a free press provides citizens with valuable information and insight into their own town or city government. It informs us about the possible decisions that are made by the town and city councils, the school committee and the zoning and urban planning councils, all decisions that could have a direct impact on our lives.
World Press Freedom Day should serve as a reminder of the need to uphold the commitment to press freedom. Contrary to what has become popular opinion among some, journalists are not the enemy of the people, but rather the guardians of their freedom. Because without a free press, we could not have written this editorial.