In a statement on the White House website, the president praised objective journalists around the world and urged them “to continue holding those in power to account.
“We celebrate the courage of truth-tellers around the world who refuse to be intimidated, often at great personal risk, and we reaffirm the timeless and essential role journalism and a free press play in societies everywhere.
“At a time when the truth is increasingly under attack,” the President added, “our need for accurate, fact-based reporting, open public conversation and accountability has never been greater.”
That’s especially the case, with the COV-19 threat
In fact, censorship of information about the epidemic is increasing. “Such censorship”, says former U.S. Assistant Secretary for Democracy and Human rights Robert Destro, “poses an unquestionable risk to public health. The free flow of information and ideas helps ensure that individuals can make informed decisions for themselves and their families to stay safe during the pandemic. A free press is vital to this process… an informed world is a free one.”
As Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty President Jamie Fly put it on World Press Freedom Day: “The coronavirus pandemic has multiplied the challenges. Our journalists have responded with courage and a dogged determination to provide our audiences with the facts they need to navigate this difficult period.”
U.N. Secretary General and others weigh in
“As the pandemic spreads,” Mr. Guterres says, “it has also given rise to a second pandemic of misinformation, from harmful heath advice to wild conspiracy theories. The press, on the other hand, provides verified, scientific, fact-based news and analysis.”
Also on May 3, U. N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric minced no words about Burma’s actions. She said the United Nations is calling for “the immediate release of dozens of journalists who are still being detained more than three months after the Myanmar coup.”
A worldwide sweep of citizen comment was reflected in numerous VOA and BBC reports, including graphic videos of victims or observers on the eve of Press Freedom Week.
The power of 21st century media
Way back when (was it 1956?) when I was a lowly copyboy on the overnight shift at the Newark Evening News, I wandered into the office of the editor-in-chief, absent in the depths of night while his staff prepared the next day’s editions. It was a quiet overnight, hence the wanderlust of an apprentice journalist.
But on the big boss’s wall was an unforgettable inscription:
“Upon a thought there fell a drop of ink, and made not hundreds but thousands think.”
Today, millions are in touch not with their local newspapers but with hundreds of millions of users (research shows that VOA and the BBC have well more than half a billion listeners, TV, and multimedia users every week).
Just think of that, when you consider the power of truth-telling in the case of Myanmar’s more than three thousand unjustly detained protesters. And think of how important it is that their story be told!
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More