A Public Good: Why Should We Protect Our Press Freedom?

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Uncensored information is more important today than ever, press freedom is an essential.

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May 3 is World Press Freedom Day. This year’s theme is “Information as a Public Good.” According to UNESCO, they are exploring ways to improve transparency and empowerment in journalism while leaving no one behind. This day is observed annually all over the world to remind us that press freedom is a democratic right and freedom of speech is a human right.

Free press means access to media, print and electronic information without interference from the government. Here in the Philippines, we recently experienced threats to our freedom to express through the Terror Bill and the practice of red-tagging. Aside from that we also faced the rapid spread of misinformation on COVID-19, worsening it’s already deadly consequences.

Threats to press freedom puts all of us in danger, which is why we need to protect it. Here are the reasons why defending the freedom of press should be a public concern and effort.

It’s For Our Safety

Press freedom provides uncensored access to information. Through this, we can prepare to act rapidly and accordingly to possible calamities or disasters. The rapid spread of reliable information allows for quick response and rescue to those who need help.

Photo from Orkin.

Censorship of vital information happened as recently as March 2020, when people were not informed about the real status of COVID-19 in the Philippines. There were only speculations and anecdotes about the virus all over social media. As a result, people were unprepared with the sudden implementation of a nationwide lockdown. This gave way to panic buying, people losing their livelihoods, and the closure of businesses ill-prepared for the extended community quarantine.

It’s For Our Truth

Transparency in elections and the media coverage of important national events are crucial. Press freedom provides us the truth on societal topics and problems so we can fairly judge and participate in its conversations. Unfiltered information about government projects and officials will also help us to vote wisely.

Photo from iStock.

Freedom of expression supports the development of informed citizens and voters through public debate whether online or offline. Intimidation and harassment for media practitioners would hinder this.

It’s For Others And Ourselves

Press freedom gives a platform for a wide variety of human rights concerns to receive attention. Accurate reporting can shine a light on abuses such as torture and persecution especially to minority groups. We also hear about the interference with indigenous peoples’ land rights because of free press.

If there is media censorship, human rights abuses will see no end. Through responsible freedom of press and expression, we have the capacity to tell our stories and share advocacies.

Photo from NRDC.

Amanda Bennet, director of Voice of America, describes a world without free press in one of her speeches. She said, “think of a world where you can believe nothing in what you read, hear or see in your country’s media. Where every word is carefully calibrated to make you believe that up is down, right is left, bad is good, good is bad and resistance is futile.”

Press freedom is essential for every country. Without this, there is no true democracy and people are in the gateway to slavery. The fight against threats to freedom of press and expression involves everybody.

“When the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.”

Thomas Jefferson (1799)