Freedom of the press recently has more often attacked than protected, yet there are plenty of tools to use to promote, support and verify that the information you are reading, seeing or hearing is honest and contributing to a healthy discussion.
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Francois Correia is a writer and travel blogger. This special contribution for Cultura Colectiva Plus is part of the UN SDG campaign to highlight the International Commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day.
In a world that constantly immerses you in an abundance of knowledge, quick news, data, and algorithms – knowing everything has become a commodity, and the red line between information and misinformation is thin.
In recent years, freedom of the press has more often been attacked than protected, yet there are plenty of tools available to promote, support, or verify that the information you read, see, or hear is either honest or is contributing to a healthy debate and a wider awareness of the pressing issues taking front stage in the world.
It doesn't matter if you agree with an opinion or piece of information or not. Promoting different opinions is paramount to a healthy progressive society, and a free press is essential to the function of worldwide democracies.
You kind of know who am I talking about, right? I am sure you can name your own far-right representative, white-supremacist, populist or xenophobic candidate wherever you are in the world: Mexico, Thailand, USA, Brazil, United Kingdom, Italy, Turkey – the list is endless. According to the UN, almost 100 journalists were killed in 2018.
"The only security for all is in a free press "– Thomas Jefferson
There are plenty of cases in the world where journalists and media are under threat. Most recently Julian Assange was removed from Ecuador’s Embassy in London, a case we all are very aware of, and he is now under the custody of security forces in the United Kingdom.
He is not a traditional journalist per se, yet most of what he does is journalistic: seeking out information that officials would prefer to be kept secret and sharing that information with a wider audience – keeping his sources protected by international and local laws of freedom of press and confidentiality.
But when this right to know is violated, and the protection of sources is thrown out the window, how do we act to make sure we, the audience, are able to protect our fundamental right to information – correct information?
Here are a few thoughts to inspire you to protect your right to be informed and to bring a positive consciousness today – May 3rd, World Press Freedom Day.
Check if the source is known to be shady
Yes, it is very easy to check if what are you reading is coming from either tabloids or unreliable sources. Every country has its share of ‘brown press’ working on fake news and distorting information. Make sure you read from different sources, double-check facts and do your research. It's easy to just ‘swallow’ information without thinking about it but the price one pays for that is dear.
"If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions. ... But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of the press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Brazil recently elected Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right candidate allegedly involved with militias, money laundering and corruption cases, primarily due to a heavily funded campaign largely based on fake-news and vicious attacks on the press, in a similar approach previously seen in the US elections of 2016. Always check the facts!
Make sure to also support your local paper.
With the recent decline in advertisement revenue, especially for digital media, the press cannot rely on commercial funding. Most news platforms are now charging a very small subscription fee to keep its investigative and essential work running, so a 3 dollar contribution will make a huge difference. Be part of the positive revolution and support the good guys and girls!
I like many journalists' work around the world but for an interesting insight into the craft, check out the story of Joan Didion.
When did we stop reading books? Make sure you leave the digital world and the endless flow of staged images and Instagram nonsense, and read books. Learn about movements, their backgrounds and the different views that make the fabric of life and culture.
There are plenty of writers, journalists and different printed sources to get info from that will help you build a solid foundation so you don’t fall on the embarrassing robotic "retweet mode", saying things like “Nazism was a leftist movement” or “Martin Luther King was a terrorist” or even worse “the concept of global warming was invented by the Chinese”.
“I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself.”
― Oscar Wilde
This May 3rd, Press Freedom Day, the United Nations is promoting awareness of the importance of a free press worldwide, which is essential for peace, sustainable development and human rights.
Every single voice deserves to be honored and respected, it doesn't matter if we agree with it or not, our differences are what makes us rich and democratic.
Freedom of speech and a press fact-based, not falsehoods, is the cornerstone of your ability as an individual to make better and positive choices and build the pathway to a better society.
Cover Photo: UN Photo by Martine Perret
This post is part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals campaign. These goals are a call for action by all countries – poor, rich and middle-income – to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. If you want to join this world wide effort, click here to send a 400 word article about Sustainable Development Goal 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.
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