Friday, March 24, 2023 | Ramadan 1, 1444 H
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Serious journalism should no longer be ignored


What is going on? Are people more relaxed with the increase in violence against journalism? Are people more relaxed with the decline of reportage on important issues to society? Are we being seriously brainwashed and doing nothing about it?

Journalism appears to be disappearing faster these days. The three years of war in Yemen is ignored by most media organisations. War reporting is on the decline; caged people and human trafficking make into reports, not into reportage; animal poaching for their parts is hardly news, and more, coverage of crime and corruption are mostly on movies showing the glorious days of journalism.

However, it is not only journalism that is disappearing — journalists as well. Violence against journalists or media workers isn’t new though. For a long time, journalists are being killed, murdered, imprisoned or kidnapped for their reporting — for informing the society on issues that offenders prefer to keep out of the public sphere.

From Brazil to Mexico, USA. Russia, Malta, China, Egypt, Turkey, Vietnam and many other countries, they have all been listed as places where journalists were murdered or imprisoned. The number of journalists detained is staggering. We can now add ‘vanished’ and ‘dismembered’.

The methods used to silence the media are becoming sharper, audacious and brutal. Shutting down the Internet service, shutting down newspapers, strengthening libel laws, silencing investigative reporting are among some of the tactics that have been normalised as routine.

So, the killing of another journalist becomes opaque when we look into what people are capable to do to stop critical reportage. Unfortunately, covering political corruption, being critical to government officials or government policies are most of the time the main reasons to silent media workers.

Why is the situation so much worse for journalism and journalists these days? One of the hypothesis is the acknowledgment of impunity. Despite cases been taken to the United Nations and institutes to protect journalists — nothing happens. Answers are not given. Only occasionally, a few voices ask questions on the possible results of any investigation. The circus goes on, with the main players certain that the law can be flexible depending on whom the elite is.

When Kate Adie, a veteran BBC broadcaster, was honoured by the queen for her services to the media early this month, she pointed out the increase of threats against journalists everywhere, from repression, censorship, to the accusation of spreading fake news; while the number of forbidden topics just keep increasing.

Years ago, some of the biggest threats to journalists were being killed in the frontline conflict, corrupt individuals and groups, impunity for those who kill journalists, and terrorist groups — these threats are still out there.

Another risk to journalists comes from social media. Despite all the benefits, social media has also become a threat. It makes media workers more vulnerable to elites that seek to track and harm journalists. Political groups, officials, criminals, and terrorists can monitor journalists — on what they say, where they are, etc.

Indeed, social media has helped everyone to have a voice but has also made journalism more dangerous. There is no frontline in social media. It has become difficult to know whom to trust.

Subjectivity, unfortunately, has taken over journalism. Under a vintage perspective, objectivity and facts were taken more seriously in the past; however, more recently there is a crescendo hostility towards serious journalism including the rise of institutional disinformation campaigns.

Journalists will continue to be murdered and kidnapped for doing their jobs as long as impunity remains the norm, and the public is relaxed about it. Silencing opponents or the media can only strengthen corruption and crime. Accurate reporting and meaningful editorials can be an antidote against fake information and a boost to accountability. More than ever, journalism matters.

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