Today is World Freedom of the Press Day, and that is not just another day. The freedom of the press, and the right to free speech with which it goes hand in hand, is a fundamental part of a functioning democracy, and an essential part of a free life.
The value of freedom of speech is impossible to truly understand for those of us who were born into it. If you have never lived in terror of speaking your mind, knowing that you would risk your life, and the lives of those close to you, if you would purposely or unintentionally utter something that could be interpreted as opposition, you might enjoy your freedom, but the true wonder of it is most likely lost on you. But we need to wake that wonder somehow, because otherwise we might forget to fight for these rights, thinking that they are somehow eternal by nature, and we might then also fail to safeguard those whose duty it is to exercise these right to the fullest.
Freedom never comes without a prize, and in many nations around the world, people are still bleeding for the right to speak. Native writers, and journalists from around the world, daily risk their lives in dictatorships, war zones, and undercover in dangerous groups in society, to bring us the truth. And while most Western countries do have formal legal protection for free speech, threats and violence against journalists and other truth-tellers from extremists is the sad and dangerous reality. Female news reporters and writers have also been particularly targeted in hate campaigns online, where threats of rape and violence have become part of their everyday lives.
Except for a few, journalists do not make a lot of money. Their job does not enjoy a particularly high status, instead we most often hear that “The media is biased”, “Nothing you read in the paper is true anymore!” etc. While the quality of the press in general might have suffered in the digital age (ask your parents how much they paid for news outlets every month a couple of decades ago, and compare that to what you are paying today – that gap has taken a toll), there are amazing reporters and journalists out there working exhausting hours, fighting to get time to work the long, complex stories and not the fast headlines, wanting the truth – not the quick break. They are immensely talented and intelligent, and could have taken up any line of work – jobs with less competition, and immensely greater rewards, but instead they toil, put their lives on the line, and get very little for it. I believe that they, at the very least, deserve our support.
If you believe that every man and woman is entitled to know the truth about their government, about how corporations around the world operate, about the legal system, about emerging diseases and treatments, about conflicts around the world, if you believe that democracy demands transparency and accountability, then you need to support the press. The truth has many enemies, and far too few defenders.
So how do we show our support? Freedom does indeed always come at a prize, and today I want you to do your part. Find a digital, printed or televised news outlet that you believe to be doing good investigative journalism, and PAY FOR THEIR WORK. Buy a subscription. Do you already have one? Buy one for a friend. Buy two. Buy four. Pay now, and be rewarded for years to come. And as rewards go, freedom is a pretty great one.
In closing, we want to send our love to the men and women in the media, and to thank them.
Thank you for questioning everything.
Thank you for protecting us, educating us, and entertaining us.
Thank you for diligently sorting through the immense universe of information, to present to us the things we need to know.
Thank you for keeping us safe, and our societies open, by holding those in power accountable.
Thank you for being so brave.
Thank you for the words that keep us free.