Wednesday, 28 May 2008

May has been the month of press freedom

May has been the month of press freedom and the UNESCO Courier has marked this with a series of articles about finding our way to information there is an interview with Lydia Cacho Ribeiro, a Mexican freelance journalist who is the laureate of the UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize. Ribeiro, who is also head of a centre that helps abused women in Cancun makes this powerful declaration of faith:
“I believe the role of journalism is to be a lantern, allowing society to exercise its right to know and understand; I believe human rights are non-negotiable. As long as I live, I will continue to write and writing will keep me alive.”

In a different article Susan Moeller notes the paradox that "Media have never been more vital for the nurturing of civil society but freedom of expression is now in retreat. No society can be free, open and fair without a diversity of voices. To remedy this situation, students of journalism must first be taught to develop a critical mind."
There are also excellent accounts of the challenges of journalism and access to information in Lebanon and in Africa but this comment on the western media is also a complex challenge.
"[The threat to the media is]The deterioration of press quality. The laziness of journalists, readers or television viewers who want everything reduced to sound bites. What the French economist and politician Jacques Delors calls “fast food information”.
Although I live with a journalist I suppose I too am that lazy reader, much prefering these days the lifestyle sections to the hard news. I want to know the background to the crisis in Burma but I also fill my attention span with restaurant reviews, quick crosswords and entertainment journalism. Thanks goodness for my early morning cup of tea with the BBC World Service radio news.
Yet the sort of journalism that Ribeiro practises is very much about a spirituality of resistance, it's about conviction and belief in what she's doing. It's also about fear, living on the margins and yet daring to be free and to speak freely come what may.

Picture © UNESCO/Aleksandar Džoni-Šopov
Investigation often resembles navigating through a labyrinth.