On World “Press” “Freedom” Day

The Wisconsin Newspaper Association announces:

As World Press Freedom Day approaches on Friday, May 3, news organizations around the world are encouraged to join in the “Defend Journalism” campaign.

The campaign is intended to stand up for free, independent and quality journalism. Special editorial coverage dedicated to the campaign will be amplified by UNESCO.

This year’s theme for World Press Freedom Day is “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation.” Organizations are encouraged to promote the 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 shutdown 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.

More from World News Publishing Focus:

News organisations across the globe are encouraged to participate in the “Defend Journalism” campaign surrounding #WorldPressFreedomDay to stand up for free, independent and quality journalism, and to dedicate special editorial coverage in the build-up to May 3. UNESCO will amplify their content, as they have done with media partners in previous years.

UNESCO is providing news organisations with materials such as banners for print, digital, and social media in the six official UN languages to build momentum around #WorldPressFreedomDay.

The global conference for the Day will take place in Addis Ababa, jointly organised by UNESCO, the Government of Ethiopia and the African Union Commission.

This year, the annual World Press Freedom Prize will be awarded to the two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, imprisoned in Myanmar.

First: UNESCO, for those unaware, is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The U.S. and Israel left UNESCO earlier this year over UNESCO’s organizational bias against Israel, which is only our longest-standing ally in the Middle East. But that’s not the only problem with UNESCO, as Time Magazine reports:

The Trump administration’s statement cited “mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO” as reasons for the decision. Those rationales echo arguments made by the administration of president Ronald Reagan in December 1983, when the U.S. previously announced a decision to pull out of UNESCO: “UNESCO has extraneously politicized virtually every subject it deals with. It has exhibited hostility toward a free society, especially a free market and a free press, and it has demonstrated unrestrained budgetary expansion.” …

When 37 nations created UNESCO as a human rights organization promoting education, science and cultural causes in November 1945, “it was essentially a western entity, dominated by western funding,” says political scientist Jerry Pubantz, co-author of To Create a New World? American Presidents and the United Nations and co-editor of The Encyclopedia of the United Nations. School systems in Europe were undergoing “denazification” and, as part of that process, the U.S. wanted to be sure that they taught World War II accurately. UNESCO was a way to influence those curricula. Likewise, during the Cold War, American officials imagined UNESCO as an advocate for free speech in an era of communist propaganda.

But, as more members joined the group — about 160 members by July 1983 — U.S. policy makers grew worried their voices would be drowned out. The newest members were “largely the decolonized new independent states of Africa and Asia” who “tended to be less supportive of American policies, and more supportive of the Soviet bloc’s position,” says Pubantz.

In addition, some U.S. officials soured on the group because, despite the new members, they felt the U.S. was left footing a disproportionate amount of the bill for UNESCO’s work. Or Jeane Kirkpatrick, who represented the U.S. at the U.N. put it, “The countries which have the votes don’t pay the bill, and those who pay the bill don’t have the votes,” as TIME reported in a Jan. 9, 1984, article.

That feature, “Waving Goodbye to UNESCO,” summed up specific events that contributed to the decision to pull out of UNESCO:

The voters who elected Reagan may have influenced the decision, too. Russell L. Riley, a presidential historian at the University of Virginia, adds that the rationale behind leaving UNESCO jibed with the Reagan administration’s overall economic agenda: “It was an easy way to save a little money and could prove to Americans that we [U.S. government officials] were being fiscally responsible.”

Increasing government control over the media and press freedom are oxymorons, and UNESCO’s involvement should make everyone suspect of …

This is the second time in nine months that the media felt the need to rally around and promote itself. The first was due to the orange-haired meanie in the White House, for whom they should be thanking God — or would if they were religious, though they are not — for Trump’s making their work as easy as humanly possible. In the same way that dissent has become patriotic again now that an R and not a D is in the White House, harsh reporting upon said Oval Office occupant and his party is back in style, as it was not between 2009 and 2016.

Some of the aforementioned “key” messages should be noncontroversial. (Point three was lost on the Obama White House, and appears to be lost on this state’s Evers administration, which bars the MacIver Institute from access because MacIver has the wrong ideology.) Point four, about journalists’ working without fear of attacks (I thought the only thing we had to fear was fear itself), seems more motivated by those mean words of Donald Trump than people like Lyra McKee, who was killed in Northern Ireland by “dissident republicans.” Every time a journalist whines about mean Trump, that journalist demonstrates a lack of backbone (which I suppose reads less harsh than “cowardice”) when journalists elsewhere in the world are reporting at risk to their own lives.

What about Annapolis? Read here.

That part about “diverse sources” is ironic given that much of the news media’s current problems have to do with a lack of “diverse” sources — that is, intellectually and ideologically diverse, sources beyond the liberal institutional/governmental status quo. Arguably diversity is less of a media problem than reporters’ inability to relate to their own readers.

People will jump, and should, all over the part about “just and inclusive societies.” Our job as journalists is to report, not foment societal change, and those in for the latter reason are in journalism for the wrong reasons. Reporting might start societal change, but (1) remember that “change” and ‘progress” are not synonyms and change can be positive or negative, and (2) it is incredibly arrogant for journalists to assume they know where society should change.

Then there’s this, from Ryan Foley:

On Sunday’s edition of her weekly syndicated show Full Measure, host Sharyl Attkisson discussed the results of a poll conducted by Scott Rasmussen that reflects very negatively on media credibility. During an on-screen interview with Attkisson, the pollster highlighted the most shocking result of the poll: “78 percent of voters say that…what reporters do with political news is promote their agenda. They think they use incidents as props for their agenda rather than seeking to accurately record what happened” while “only 14 percent think that a journalist is actually reporting what happened.” Rasmussen continued: “if a reporter found out something that would hurt their favorite candidate, only 36 percent of voters think that they would report that.” Rasmussen summed up the results of the poll by declaring that voters see journalists as a “political activist, not as a source of information.” 

One reason why Republicans and conservatives should support press freedom, including open government records, is in this state, during Act 10 and Recallarama, when, thanks to the fact that election petition signatures are public records (specifically the recall effort against Gov. Scott Walker), we got to find out the people who (1) get government paychecks, (2) are candidates for office, or (3) are in the news media who signed the petitions. That is the public’s right to know.

There will never be support for press freedom from politicians. There is no question in my mind that all the Democrats jumping on the media bandwagon are hoping they will be treated with the same light touch that the media used on Obama, before him Bill Clinton, and after him Hillary Clinton. (Which has a lot to do with mean orange-hair man now in the Oval Office, but you can tell that to neither Democrats nor journalists.) Reporters worth their salt revel in being hated by politicians of any or no party. Then again, reporters worth their salt don’t hold parties celebrating themselves.

Something else you may not see acknowledged today is that the First Amendment does not belong merely to the press. (And the news media includes more than however the media defines itself, with the intent of squelching out alternative voices. The marketplace of ideas should decide which news media outlets are legitimate and which are not based on the quality of their work.) Like this state’s Open Meetings and Open Records laws, our First Amendment rights apply to every American, not just to the news media. It would be nice if the news media acknowledged that fact, as well as our other constitutional rights.

 

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