Bill Doskoch: Media, BPS*, Film, Minutiae

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World Press Freedom Day – The Globe’s view

Press freedom image, 2018

The newest twist in the never-ending battle for press freedom is the mainstream assault on journalists, writes the Globe and Mail in a World Press Freedom Day editorial.

From the Globe and Mail (“Democracy’s immutable need for a free press“):

We are exercised by such attacks, not just because it is our business but because of the immutable link between a free press and freedom.

Related: Why we must pay attention to the death of nine journalists in Kabul

Read more: These are the journalists who were killed in the line of duty in 2017 and 2018

Opinion: In this grim time for journalists, a breakthrough in South Sudan

These threats represent not a narrow assault on inconvenient troublemakers but an attack on people who connect society using nothing sharper than a camera, keyboard and pen. The health of democratic institutions, and wider participatory democracy, is directly linked to an independent press.

Canada still sits high on the table of countries enjoying relative press freedom, even if the secrecy of court work and lame access to information laws are two problems. Another is the anonymous rape and death threats made on social media against newsroom staff. Sometimes reporters are followed by private investigators hired by big companies. These are intimidation tactics that threaten our way of life.

The intimidation doesn’t go to deadly extremes in most cases — but they can. In 1998, an unknown gunman or gunmen shot and killed Tara Singh Hayer, a publisher of an Indo-Canadian newspaper and a voice against extremism in the Sikh community.

Two years later, a biker shot Michel Auger, crime writer for a Montreal tabloid, at least five times in the back. He miraculously survived and continued to write about biker gangs. He and Hayer are heroes.

But those are the only two to have been killed or faced death on Canadian soil.

Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist, died in 2003 in Iran’s Evin Prison. She had been taking photographs outside it when Iranian authorities arrested her.

War, particularly the Afghanistan war, which Canadian journalists covered heavily from late 2001 to March 2014, surprisingly didn’t claim that many Canadian lives, although it came close.

Kathleen Kenna of the Toronto Star suffered serious injuries in Afghanistan in 2002 when gunmen ambushed the vehicle she was travelling in. Also that year, Montreal Gazette reporter Levon Sevunts survived a firefight that left three other journalists dead.

A former CTV News colleague, Steve Chao, was lucky when a 500-lb. bomb landed with a thud near the Canadian patrol he was embedded with. Fortunately, the bomb landed in soft mud and didn’t detonate. Otherwise, we’d be talking about Steve in the past tense.

In 2009, Calgary Herald reporter Michelle Lang’s luck ran out in Afghanistan when the armoured personnel carrier she was riding in struck an improvised explosive device. Lang and four Canadian soldiers perished in the blast.

In 2014, Canadian freelance photojournalist Ali Mustafa died following an air strike on Aleppo. Mustafa was documenting human rights abuses in the Syrian civil war.

While they weren’t Canadian, on Monday of this week, nine Afghan journalists died covering a suicide bombing when a second bomber insinuated himself in their midst and pushed the button.

Governments, particularly in the less democratic areas of the world. also provide a risk for journalists, with more than 260 languishing in their prisons.

In Myanmar, two Reuters reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, were taken away to face trial because they uncovered proof of ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya. These two men provided among the first evidence of what was going on in this too-closed state. It was by any definition vital journalism. Today both men face prison sentences longer than the 10 years handed down to the culprits of the massacre that Reuters revealed to the world. …

By strangling those who put their lives on the line to tell the truth, the world’s most dangerous corners can only slide further into paroxysmal attacks against the very idea of freedom, and of humanity itself.

Please remember journalists, today, and every day.

Addendum

Statement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on World Press Freedom Day.

World News Day: These are the Canadian journalists who lost their lives while doing their job

Thu, May 3 2018 » Main Page, Media