World Press Freedom Day (2019)

It’s been seven months since Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and dissident, was brutally murdered inside the country’s consulate in Istanbul. His dismembered body has still not been found. The Saudi Royal Family remains the chief suspect.

BlackRock founder Larry Fink recently told The New York Times he wants to engage the Saudis rather than shun them for whatever internal troubles led to the killing of a respected member of the press and columnist for The Washington Post.

Other companies, including Google, Softbank, and HSBC, are also planning business ventures with the Saudis, The Times reported.

On World Press Freedom Day, as more than 250 journalists around the world languish in jails in places such as Turkey, China, and Egypt and hundreds of others risk their lives daily to bring truth to their readers, it’s important to stand up and call this what it is: naked and unabashed greed at the expense of justice.

In Myanmar, two Reuters journalists have been in filthy jail cells for more than 16 months, and face seven-year sentences for their reporting on the massacre of Rohingya Muslims by the country’s government.

In Northern Ireland, 29-year-old Lyra McKee became the first journalist in 18 years to be killed when she was shot in the head during a protest. Against this ever-increasing spiral of violence, any appeasement or apathy by those who can and should help is a green light to terror and tyranny.

The world’s media is right to highlight these statistics. The world has become less and less of a place for press freedom in the last decade as terror and authoritarianism have grown.

Although World Press Freedom Day has come and gone (its actual day was Friday, May 3 and recognized around the world), it basic tenets remain. Media organizations are urged to promote these key messages:

• Facts, not falsehoods should inform citizens’ decisions during elections.

• Technology innovations should be used to help achieve peaceful elections.

• Transparency and the right to information protect the integrity of elections.

• Journalists should be able to work without fear of attacks.

•Internet shutdowns compromise democracy.

• An open and accessible internet for all.

• Fair and independent reporting can counter incitement and hate.

• Informed citizens that think critically can contribute to peaceful elections.

• Media contributes to peaceful, just and inclusive societies.

While we in the media endeavor to embrace these press freedom tenets, we hope that others in our governing bodies and law enforcement will as well.

Observing and practicing the items critical to a free press here will send the message around the world that a free press in the United States of America can be the example for the press organizations in the remainder of the world.

In other words, there should not be just one day to observe press freedom. It should always be observed.

--Dave Callaway, president of the World Editors Forum,

contributed to this editorial

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